Articles on the meaning of Socialism:
Part One: Extracts from the novel, “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell.
First Published 1955
‘It is childish to imagine that any measure of Tariff Reform or Political Reform such as a paltry tax on foreign-made goods or abolishing the House of Lords, or disestablishing the Church–or miserable Old Age Pensions, or a contemptible tax on land, can deal with such a state of affairs as this. They have no House of Lords in America or France, and yet their condition is not materially different from ours. You may be deceived into thinking that such measures as those are great things. You may fight for them and vote for them, but after you have got them you will find that they will make no appreciable improvement in your condition. You will still have to slave and drudge to gain a bare sufficiency of the necessaries of life. You will still have to eat the same kind of food and wear the same kind of clothes and boots as now. Your masters will still have you in their power to insult and sweat and drive. Your general condition will be just the same as at present because such measures as those are not remedies but red herrings, intended by those who trail them to draw us away from the only remedy, which is to be found only in the Public Ownership of the Machinery, and the National Organization of Industry for the production and distribution of the necessaries of life, not for the profit of a few but for the benefit of all!
‘That is the next great change; not merely desirable, but imperatively necessary and inevitable! That is Socialism!
‘It is not a wild dream of Superhuman Unselfishness. No one will be asked to sacrifice himself for the benefit of others or to love his neighbours better than himself as is the case under the present system, which demands that the majority shall unselfishly be content to labour and live in wretchedness for the benefit of a few. There is no such principle of Philanthropy in Socialism, which simply means that even as all industries are now owned by shareholders, and organized and directed by committees and officers elected by the shareholders, so shall they in future belong to the State, that is, the whole people–and they shall be organized and directed by committees and officers elected by the community.
‘Under existing circumstances the community is exposed to the danger of being invaded and robbed and massacred by some foreign power. Therefore the community has organized and owns and controls an Army and Navy to protect it from that danger.
Under existing circumstances the community is menaced by another equally great danger–the people are mentally and physically degenerating from lack of proper food and clothing. Socialists say that the community should undertake and organize the business of producing and distributing all these things; that the State should be the only employer of labour and should own all the factories, mills, mines, farms, railways, fishing fleets, sheep farms, poultry farms and cattle ranches
‘Under existing circumstances the community is degenerating mentally and physically because the majority cannot afford to have decent houses to live in. Socialists say that the community should take in hand the business of providing proper houses for all its members that the State should be the only landlord that all the land and all the houses should belong to the whole people… ‘We must do this if we are to keep our old place in the van of human progress. A nation of ignorant, unintelligent, half-starved, broken-spirited degenerates cannot hope to lead humanity in its never-ceasing march onward to the conquest of the future.
‘Vain, mightiest fleet of iron framed;
Vain the all-shattering guns
Unless proud England keep, untamed,
The stout hearts of her sons.
‘All the evils that I have referred to are only symptoms of the one disease that is sapping the moral, mental and physical life of the nation, and all attempts to cure these symptoms are foredoomed to failure, because drunkenness is a symptom, and not the disease.
‘India is a rich productive country. Every year millions of pounds worth of wealth are produced by her people, only to be stolen from them by means of the Money Trick by the capitalist and official class. Her industrious sons and daughters, who are nearly all total abstainers, live in abject poverty, and their misery is not caused by laziness or want of thrift, or by Intemperance. They are poor for the same reason that we are poor–Because we are Robbed.
‘The hundreds of thousands of pounds that are yearly wasted in well-meant but useless charity accomplish no lasting good, because while charity soothes the symptoms it ignores the disease, which is–the PRIVATE OWNERSHIP of the means of producing the necessaries of life, and the restriction of production, by a few selfish individuals for their own profit. And for that disease there is no other remedy than the one I have told you of–the PUBLIC OWNERSHIP and cultivation of the land, the PUBLIC OWNERSHIP OF the mines, railways, canals, ships, factories and all the other means of production, and the establishment of an Industrial Civil Service–a National Army of Industry–for the purpose of producing the necessaries, comforts and refinements of life in that abundance which has been made possible by science and machinery–for the use and benefit of THE WHOLE OF THE PEOPLE.’
and where’s the money to come from for all this?…..
…..”What about all the money that’s wasted every year on education?” What can be more brutal and senseless than trying to “educate” a poor little, hungry, ill-clad child? Such so-called “instruction” is like the seed in the parable of the Sower, which fell on stony ground and withered away because it had no depth of earth; and even in those cases where it does take root and grow, it becomes like the seed that fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it bore no fruit. ‘The majority of us forget in a year or two all that we learnt at school because the conditions of our lives are such as to destroy all inclination for culture or refinement. We must see that the children are properly clothed and fed and that they are not made to get up in the middle of the night to go to work for several hours before they go to school. We must make it illegal for any greedy, heartless profit-hunter to hire them and make them labour for several hours in the evening after school, or all day and till nearly midnight on Saturday. We must first see that our children are cared for….. before we can expect a proper return for the money that we spend on education.’
…. national ownership and industries is all right if it could only be done,’ ….., ‘but at present, all the land, railways and factories, belongs to private capitalists; they can’t be bought without money, and you say you ain’t goin’ to take ‘em away by force….
‘We certainly don’t propose to buy them with money, for the simple reason that there is not sufficient money in existence to pay for them. ‘If all the gold and silver money in the World were gathered together into one heap, it would scarcely be sufficient to buy all the private property in England. The people who own all these things now never really paid for them with money–they obtained possession of them by means of the “Money Trick” …
‘They tell us themselves that that is how they got them away from us; they call their profits the “wages of intelligence”. Whilst we have been working, they have been using their intelligence in order to obtain possession of the things we have created. The time has now arrived for us to use our intelligence in order to get back the things they have robbed us of, aid to prevent them from robbing us any more.
‘When a thief is caught having in his possession the property of others it is not robbery to take the things away from him and to restore them to their rightful owners,
‘A large part of the land may be got back in the same way as it was taken from us. The ancestors of the present holders obtained possession of it by simply passing Acts of Enclosure: the nation should regain possession of those lands by passing Acts of Resumption. And with regard to the other land, the present holders should be allowed to retain possession of it during their lives and then it should revert to the State, to be used for the benefit of all.
Britain should belong to the British people, not to a few selfish individuals. As for the railways, they have already been nationalized in some other countries, and what other countries can do we can do also. In New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Japan and some other countries some of the railways are already the property of the State. As for the method by which we can obtain possession of them, the difficulty is not to discover a method, but rather to decide which of many methods we shall adopt. One method would be to simply pass an Act declaring that as it was contrary to the public interest that they should be owned by private individuals, the railways would henceforth be the property of the nation. All railways servants, managers and officials would continue in their employment; the only difference being that they would now be in the employ of the State. As to the shareholders ….The State would continue to pay to the shareholders the same dividends they had received on an average for, say, the previous three years. These payments would be continued to the present shareholders for life, or the payments might be limited to a stated number of years and the shares would be made non-transferable, like the railway tickets of today. As for the factories, shops, and other means of production and distribution, the State must adopt the same methods of doing business as the present owners. I mean that even as the big Trusts and companies are crushing–by competition–the individual workers and small traders, so the State should crush the trusts by competition. It is surely justifiable for the State to do for the benefit of the whole people that which the capitalists are already doing for the profit of a few shareholders.
The first step in this direction will be the establishment of Retail Stores for the purpose of supplying all national and municipal employees with the necessaries of life at the lowest possible prices. At first the Administration will purchase these things from the private manufacturers, in such large quantities that it will be able to obtain them at the very cheapest rate, and as there will be no heavy rents to pay for showy shops, and no advertising expenses, and as the object of the Administration will be not to make profit, but to supply its workmen and officials with goods at the lowest price, they will be able to sell them much cheaper than the profit-making private stores. ‘The National Service Retail Stores will be for the benefit of only those in the public service; and gold, silver or copper money will not be accepted in payment for the things sold.
At first, all public servants will continue to be paid in metal money, but those who desire it will be paid all or part of their wages in paper money of the same nominal value, which will be accepted in payment for their purchases at the National Stores and at the National Hotels, Restaurants and other places which will be established for the convenience of those in the State service. The money will resemble bank-notes. It will be made of a special very strong paper, and will be of all value, from a penny to a pound. ‘As the National Service Stores will sell practically everything that could be obtained elsewhere, and as twenty shillings in paper money will be able to purchase much more at the stores than twenty shillings of metal money would purchase anywhere else, it will not be long before nearly all public servants will prefer to be paid in paper money.
As far as paying the salaries and wages of most of its officials and workmen is concerned, the Administration will not then have any need of metal money. But it will require metal money to pay the private manufacturers who supply the goods sold in the National Stores. But–all these things are made by labour; so in order to avoid having to pay metal money for them, the State will now commence to employ productive labour. All the public land suitable for the purpose will be put into cultivation and State factories will be established for manufacturing food, boots, clothing, furniture and all other necessaries and comforts of life.
All those who are out of employment and willing to work, will be given employment on these farms and in these factories. In order that the men employed shall not have to work unpleasantly hard, and that their hours of labour may be as short as possible–at first, say, eight hours per day–and also to make sure that the greatest possible quantity of everything shall be produced, these factories and farms will be equipped with the most up-to-date and efficient labour-saving machinery. The people employed in the farms and factories will be paid with paper money… The commodities they produce will go to replenish the stocks of the National Service Stores, where the workers will be able to purchase with their paper money everything they need. ‘As we shall employ the greatest possible number of labour-saving machines, and adopt the most scientific methods in our farms and factories, the quantities of goods we shall be able to produce will be so enormous that we shall be able to pay our workers very high wages–in paper money–and we shall be able to sell our produce so cheaply, that all public servants will be able to enjoy abundance of everything.
‘When the workers who are being exploited and sweated by the private capitalists realize how much worse off they are than the workers in the employ of the State, they will come and ask to be allowed to work for the State, and also, for paper money. That will mean that the State Army of Productive Workers will be continually increasing in numbers. More State factories will be built, more land will be put into cultivation. Men will be given employment making bricks, woodwork, paints, glass, wallpapers and all kinds of building materials and others will be set to work building–on State land–beautiful houses, which will be let to those employed in the service of the State. The rent will be paid with paper money.
‘State fishing fleets will be established and the quantities of commodities of all kinds produced will be so great that the State employees and officials will not be able to use it all. With their paper money they will be able to buy enough and more than enough to satisfy all their needs abundantly, but there will still be a great and continuously increasing surplus stock in the possession of the State.
‘The Socialist Administration will now acquire or build fleets of steam trading vessels, which will of course be manned and officered by State employees–the same as the Royal Navy is now. These fleets of National trading vessels will carry the surplus stocks I have mentioned, to foreign countries, and will there sell or exchange them for some of the products of those countries, things that we do not produce ourselves. These things will be brought to England and sold at the National Service Stores, at the lowest possible price, for paper money, to those in the service of the State. This of course will only have the effect of introducing greater variety into the stocks–it will not diminish the surplus: and as there would be no sense in continuing to produce more of these things than necessary, it would then be the duty of the Administration to curtail or restrict production of the necessaries of life. This could be done by reducing the hours of the workers without reducing their wages so as to enable them to continue to purchase as much as before.
‘Another way of preventing over production of mere necessaries and comforts will be to employ a large number of workers producing the refinements and pleasures of life, more artistic houses, furniture, pictures, musical instruments and so forth.
‘In the centre of every district a large Institute or pleasure house could be erected, containing a magnificently appointed and decorated theatre; Concert Hall, Lecture Hall, Gymnasium, Billiard Rooms, Reading Rooms, Refreshment Rooms, and so on. A detachment of the Industrial Army would be employed as actors, artistes, musicians, singers and entertainers. In fact everyone that could be spared from the most important work of all–that of producing the necessaries of life–would be employed in creating pleasure, culture, and education. All these people–like the other branches of the public service–would be paid with paper money, and with it all of them would be able to purchase abundance of all those things which constitute civilization.
‘Meanwhile, as a result of all this, the kind-hearted private employers and capitalists would find that no one would come and work for them to be driven and bullied and sweated for a miserable trifle of metal money that is scarcely enough to purchase sufficient of the necessaries of life to keep body and soul together.
‘These kind-hearted capitalists will protest against what they will call the unfair competition of State industry, and some of them may threaten to leave the country and take their capital with them…
As most of these persons are too lazy to work, and as we will not need their money, we shall be very glad to see them go. But with regard to their real capital–their factories, farms, mines or machinery–that will be a different matter… To allow these things to remain idle and unproductive would constitute an injury to the community. So a law will be passed, declaring that all land not cultivated by the owner, or any factory shut down for more than a specified time, will be taken possession of by the State and worked for the benefit of the community… Fair compensation will be paid in paper money to the former owners, who will be granted an income or pension of so much a year either for life or for a stated period according to circumstances and the ages of the persons concerned.
‘As for the private traders, the wholesale and retail dealers in the things produced by labour, they will be forced by the State competition to close down their shops and warehouses–first, because they will not be able to replenish their stocks; and, secondly, because even if they were able to do so, they would not be able to sell them.
This will throw out of work a great host of people who are at present engaged in useless occupations; the managers and assistants in the shops of which we now see half a dozen of the same sort in a single street; the thousands of men and women who are slaving away their lives producing advertisements, for, in most cases, a miserable pittance of metal money, with which many of them are unable to procure sufficient of the necessaries of life to secure them from starvation.
‘The masons, carpenters, painters, glaziers, and all the others engaged in maintaining these unnecessary stores and shops will all be thrown out of employment, but all of them who are willing to work will be welcomed by the State and will be at once employed helping either to produce or distribute the necessaries and comforts of life. They will have to work fewer hours than before… They will not have to work so hard–for there will be no need to drive or bully, because there will be plenty of people to do the work, and most of it will be done by machinery–and with their paper money they will be able to buy abundance of the things they help to produce.
The shops and stores where these people were formerly employed will be acquired by the State, which will pay the former owners fair compensation in the same manner as to the factory owners. Some of the buildings will be utilized by the State as National Service Stores, others transformed into factories and others will be pulled down to make room for dwellings, or public buildings…
It will be the duty of the Government to build a sufficient number of houses to accommodate the families of all those in its employment, and as a consequence of this and because of the general disorganization and decay of what is now called “business”, all other house property of all kinds will rapidly depreciate invalue. The slums and the wretched dwellings now occupied by the working classes–the miserable, uncomfortable, jerry-built “villas” occupied by the lower middle classes and by “business” people, will be left empty and valueless upon the hands of their rack renting landlords, who will very soon voluntarily offer to hand them and the ground they stand upon to the state on the same terms as those accorded to the other property owners, namely–in return for a pension. Some of these people will be content to live in idleness on the income allowed them for life as compensation by the State: others will devote themselves to art or science and some others will offer their services to the community as managers and superintendents, and the State will always be glad to employ all those who are willing to help in the Great Work of production and distribution.
‘By this time the nation will be the sole employer of labour, and as no one will be able to procure the necessaries of life without paper money, and as the only way to obtain this will be working, it will mean that every mentally and physically capable person in the community will be helping in the great work of PRODUCTION and DISTRIBUTION.
We shall not need as at present, to maintain a police force to protect the property of the idle rich from the starving wretches whom they have robbed. There will be no unemployed and no overlapping of labour, which will be organized and concentrated for the accomplishment of the only rational object–the creation of the things we require… For every one labour-saving machine in use today, we will, if necessary, employ a thousand machines! and consequently there will be produced such a stupendous, enormous, prodigious, overwhelming abundance of everything that soon the Community will be faced once more with the serious problem of OVER-PRODUCTION.
‘To deal with this, it will be necessary to reduce the hours of our workers to four or five hours a day… All young people will be allowed to continue at public schools and universities and will not be required to take any part in the work or the nation until they are twenty-one years of age. At the age of forty-five, everyone will be allowed to retire from the State service on full pay… All these will be able to spend the rest of their days according to their own inclinations; some will settle down quietly at home, and amuse themselves in the same ways as people of wealth and leisure do at the present day–with some hobby, or by taking part in the organization of social functions, such as balls, parties, entertainments, the organization of Public Games and Athletic Tournaments, Races and all kinds of sports.
‘Some will prefer to continue in the service of the State. Actors, artists, sculptors, musicians and others will go on working for their own pleasure and honour… Some will devote their leisure to science, art, or literature. Others will prefer to travel on the State steamships to different parts of the world to see for themselves all those things of which most of us have now but a dim and vague conception. The wonders of India and Egypt, the glories of Rome, the artistic treasures of the continent and the sublime scenery of other lands.
‘Thus–for the first time in the history of humanity–the benefits and pleasures conferred upon mankind by science and civilization will be enjoyed equally by all, upon the one condition, that they shall do their share of the work, that is necessary in order to, make all these things possible.
‘These are the principles upon which the CO-OPERATIVE COMMONWEALTH of the future will be organized. The State in which no one will be distinguished or honoured above his fellows except for Virtue or Talent. Where no man will find his profit in another’s loss, and we shall no longer be masters and servants, but brothers, free men, and friends. Where there will be no weary, broken men and women passing their joyless lives in toil and want, and no little children crying because they are hungry or cold. ‘A State wherein it will be possible to put into practice the teachings of Him whom so many now pretend to follow. A society which shall have justice and co-operation for its foundation, and International Brotherhood and love for its law.
‘Such are the days that shall be! but What are the deeds of today, In the days of the years we dwell in, That wear our lives away? Why, then, and for what we are waiting? There are but three words to speak “We will it,” and what is the foreman but the dream strong wakened and weak?
‘Oh, why and for what are we waiting, while our brothers droop and die?
And on every wind of the heavens, a wasted life goes by.
‘How long shall they reproach us, where crowd on crowd they dwell
Poor ghosts of the wicked city, gold crushed, hungry hell? ‘Through squalid life they laboured in sordid grief they died
Those sons of a mighty mother, those props of England’s pride. They are gone, there is none can undo it, nor save our souls from the curse,
But many a million cometh, and shall they be better or worse?
‘It is We must answer and hasten and open wide the door,
For the rich man’s hurrying terror, and the slow foot hope of the poor,
Yea, the voiceless wrath of the wretched and their unlearned discontent,
We must give it voice and wisdom, till the waiting tide be spent Come then since all things call us, the living and the dead,
And o’er the weltering tangle a glimmering light is shed.’
…. No one could ever be out of employment. If one was ill the State hospitals and Medical Service would be free. As for one’s children, they would attend the State Free Schools and Colleges and when of age they would enter the State Service, their futures provided for. …
…even under the present system there are many things which cost money to maintain, that we enjoy without having to pay for directly. The public roads and pavements cost money to make and maintain and light. So do the parks, museums and bridges. But they are free to all. Under a Socialist Administration this principle will be extended–in addition to the free services we enjoy now we shall then maintain the trains and railways for the use of the public, free. And as time goes on, this method of doing business will be adopted in many other directions.’
‘If the Government of a country began to issue large amounts of paper money under the present system,’ Barrington replied, ‘it would inevitably lead to bankruptcy, for the simple reason that paper money under the present system–bank-notes, bank drafts, postal orders, cheques or any other form–is merely a printed promise to pay the amount–in gold or silver–on demand or at a certain date. Under the present system if a Government issues more paper money than it possesses gold and silver to redeem, it is of course bankrupt. But the paper money that will be issued under a Socialist Administration will not be a promise to pay in gold or silver on demand or at any time. It will be a promise to supply commodities to the amount specified on the note, and as there could be no dearth of those things there could be no possibility of bankruptcy.’
Under the present system we have no voice in appointing our masters and overseers and foremen–we have no choice as to what master we shall work under. If our masters do not treat us fairly we have no remedy against them. Under Socialism it will be different; the workers will be part of the community; the officers or managers and foremen will be the servants of the community, and if any one of these men were to abuse his position he could be promptly removed. As for the details of the organization of the Industrial Army, the difficulty is, again, not so much to devise a way, but to decide which of many ways would be the best, and the perfect way will probably be developed only after experiment and experience. The one thing we have to hold fast to is the fundamental principle of State employment or National service.
Production for use and not for profit.
The national organization of industry under democratic control. One way of arranging this business would be for the community to elect a Parliament in much the same way as is done at present. The only persons eligible for election to be veterans of the industrial Army, men and women who had put in their twenty-five years of service. ‘This Administrative Body would have control of the different State Departments. There would be a Department of Agriculture, a Department of Railways and so on, each with its minister and staff. ‘All these Members of Parliament would be the relatives–in some cases the mothers and fathers of those in the Industrial Service, and they would be relied upon to see that the conditions of that service were the best possible.
‘As for the different branches of the State Service, they could be organized on somewhat the same lines as the different branches of the Public Service are now–like the Navy, the Post Office and as the State Railways in some other countries, or as are the different branches of the Military Army, with the difference that all promotions will be from the ranks, by examinations, and by merit only. As every recruit will have had the same class of education they will all have absolute equality of opportunity and the men who would attain to positions of authority would be the best men, and not as at present, the worst.’
‘Under the present system, the men who become masters and employers succeed because they are cunning and selfish, not because they understand or are capable of doing the work out of which they make their money. Most of the employers in the building trade for instance would be incapable of doing any skilled work. Very few of them would be worth their salt as journeymen. The only work they do is to scheme to reap the benefit of the labour of others.
‘The men who now become managers and foremen are selected not because of their ability as craftsmen, but because they are good slave-drivers and useful producers of profit for their employers.’
‘The fact that all workers will receive the same pay, no matter what class of work they are engaged in, or what their position, will ensure our getting the very best man to do all the higher work and to organize our business.’
… Everybody to get the same wages?’ … there will be such an enormous quantity of everything produced, that their wages will enable everyone to purchase abundance of everything they require. Even if some were paid more than others they would not be able to spend it. There would be no need to save it, and as there will be no starving poor, there will be no one to give it away to. If it were possible to save and accumulate money it would bring into being an idle class, living on their fellows: it would lead to the downfall of our system, and a return to the same anarchy that exists at present. Besides, if higher wages were paid to those engaged in the higher work or occupying positions of authority it would prevent our getting the best men. Unfit persons would try for the positions because of the higher pay. That is what happens now. Under the present system men intrigue for and obtain or are pitchforked into positions for which they have no natural ability at all; the only reason they desire these positions is because of the salaries attached to them. These fellows get the money and the work is done by underpaid subordinates whom the world never hears of.
Under Socialism, this money incentive will be done away with, and consequently the only men who will try for these positions will be those who, being naturally fitted for the work, would like to do it. For instance a man who is a born organizer will not refuse to undertake such work because he will not be paid more for it. Such a man will desire to do it and will esteem it a privilege to be allowed to do it. He will revel in it. To think out all the details of some undertaking, to plan and scheme and organize, is not work for a man like that. It is a pleasure. But for a man who has sought and secured such a position, not because he liked the work, but because he liked the salary–such work as this would be unpleasant labour. Under Socialism the unfit man would not apply for that post but would strive after some other for which he was fit and which he would therefore desire and enjoy.
There are some men who would rather have charge of and organize and be responsible for work than do it with their hands. There are others who would rather do delicate or difficult or artistic work, than plain work. A man who is a born artist would rather paint a frieze or a picture or carve a statue than he would do plain work, or take charge of and direct the labour of others. And there are another sort of men who would rather do ordinary plain work than take charge, or attempt higher branches for which they have neither liking or natural talent. ‘But there is one thing–a most important point … and that is, that all these different kinds and classes are equal in one respect–THEY ARE ALL EQUALLY NECESSARY. Each is a necessary and indispensable part of the whole; therefore everyone who has done his full share of necessary work is justly entitled to a full share of the results. The men who put the slates on are just as indispensable as the men who lay the foundations. The work of the men who build the walls and make the doors is just as necessary as the work of the men who decorate the cornice. None of them would be of much use without the architect, and the plans of the architect would come to nothing, his building would be a mere castle in the air, if it were not for the other workers. Each part of the work is equally necessary, useful and indispensable if the building is to be perfected. Some of these men work harder with their brains than with their hands and some work harder with their hands than with their brains, BUT EACH ONE DOES HIS FULL SHARE OF THE WORK. This truth will be recognized and acted upon by those who build up and maintain the fabric of our Co-operative Commonwealth.
Every man who does his full share of the useful and necessary work according to his abilities shall have his full share of the total result. Herein will be its great difference from the present system, under which it is possible for the cunning and selfish ones to take advantage of the simplicity of others and rob them of part of the fruits of their labour. As for those who will be engaged in the higher branches, they will be sufficiently rewarded by being privileged to do the work they are fitted for and enjoy. The only men and women who are capable of good and great work of any kind are those who, being naturally fit for it, love the work for its own sake and not for the money it brings them. Under the present system, many men who have no need of money produce great works, not for gain but for pleasure: their wealth enables them to follow their natural inclinations. Under the present system many men and women capable of great works are prevented from giving expression to their powers by poverty and lack of opportunity: they live in sorrow and die heartbroken, and the community is the loser. These are the men and women who will be our artists, sculptors, architects, engineers and captains of industry.
‘Under the present system there are men at the head of affairs whose only object is the accumulation of money. Some of them possess great abilities and the system has practically compelled them to employ those abilities for their own selfish ends to the hurt of the community. Some of them have built up great fortunes out of the sweat and blood and tears of men and women and little children. For those who delight in such work as this, there will be no place in our Co-operative Commonwealth.’
…. what encouragement will there be for anyone to worry his brains out trying to invent some new machine, or make some new discovery?’ …
…if it were found necessary–which is highly improbable–to offer some material reward in addition to the respect, esteem or honour that would be enjoyed by the author of an invention that was a boon to the community, it could be arranged by allowing him to retire before the expiration of his twenty-five years service. The boon he had conferred on the community by the invention, would be considered equivalent to so many years work. But a man like that would not desire to cease working; that sort go on working all their lives, for love. There’s Edison for instance. He is one of the very few inventors who have made money out of their work; he is a rich man, but the only use his wealth seems to be to him is to procure himself facilities for going on with his work; his life is a round of what some people would call painful labour: but it is not painful labour to him; it’s just pleasure, he works for the love of it. Another way would be to absolve a man of that sort from the necessity of ordinary work, so as to give him a chance to get on with other inventions. It would be to the interests of the community to encourage him in every way and to place materials and facilities at his disposal. ‘But you must remember that even under the present system, Honour and Praise are held to be greater than money. How many soldiers would prefer money to the honour of wearing the intrinsically valueless Victoria Cross? ‘Even now men think less of money than they do of the respect, esteem or honour they are able to procure with it. Many men spend the greater part of their lives striving to accumulate money, and when they have succeeded, they proceed to spend it to obtain the respect of their fellow-men. Some of them spend thousands of pounds for the honour of being able to write “MP” after their names. Others buy titles. Others pay huge sums to gain admission to exclusive circles of society. Others give the money away in charity, or found libraries or universities. The reason they do these things is that they desire to be applauded and honoured by their fellow-men. ‘This desire is strongest in the most capable men–the men of genius.
Therefore, under Socialism the principal incentive to great work will be the same as now–Honour and Praise. But, under the present system, Honour and Praise can be bought with money, and it does not matter much how the money was obtained. ‘Under Socialism it will be different. The Cross of Honour and the Laurel Crown will not be bought and sold for filthy lucre. They will be the supreme rewards of Virtue and of Talent.’
… ‘What would you do with them what spends all their money in drink?’
‘I might reasonably ask you, “What’s done with them or what you propose to do with them now?” There are many men and women whose lives are so full of toil and sorrow and the misery caused by abject poverty, who are so shut out from all that makes life worth living, that the time they spend in the public house is the only ray of sunshine in their cheerless lives. Their mental and material poverty is so great that they are deprived of and incapable of understanding the intellectual and social pleasures of civilization…
Under Socialism there will be no such class as this. Everyone will be educated, and social life and rational pleasure will be within the reach of all. Therefore we do not believe that there will be such a class. Any individuals who abandoned themselves to such a course would be avoided by their fellows; but if they became very degraded, we should still remember that they were our brother men and women, and we should regard them as suffering from a disease inherited from their uncivilized forefathers and try to cure them by placing them under some restraint: in an institute for instance.’
‘Even under the present silly system of restricted production, with the majority of the population engaged in useless, unproductive, unnecessary work, and large numbers never doing any work at all, there is enough produced to go all round after a fashion. More than enough, for in consequence of what they call “Over-Production”, the markets are periodically glutted with commodities of all kinds, and then for a time the factories are closed and production ceases. And yet we can all manage to exist–after a fashion. This proves that if productive industry were organized on the lines advocated by Socialists there could be produced such a prodigious quantity of everything, that everyone could live in plenty and comfort. The problem of how to produce sufficient for all to enjoy abundance is already solved: the problem that then remains is–How to get rid of those whose greed and callous indifference to the sufferings of others, prevents it being done.’
‘what are you goin’ to do…. with them wot WON’T WORK’!’ ‘It’s only what is to be expected, considering that practically all workers live in poverty, and are regarded with contempt. The conditions under which most of the work is done at present are so unpleasant and degrading that everyone refuses to do any unless they are compelled; …
Under the present system everybody who can possibly manage to do so avoids doing any work, the only difference being that some people do their loafing better than others. The aristocracy are too lazy to work, but they seem to get on all right; they have their tenants to work for them. … Then there is another kind of loafers who go about begging and occasionally starving rather than submit to such abominable conditions as are offered to them. These last are generally not much worse off than we are and they are often better off. At present, people have everything to gain and but little to lose by refusing to work. Under Socialism it would be just the reverse; the conditions of labour would be so pleasant, the hours of obligatory work so few, and the reward so great, that it is absurd to imagine that any one would be so foolish as to incur the contempt of his fellows and make himself a social outcast by refusing to do the small share of work demanded of him by the community of which he was a member. ‘As for what we should do to such individuals if there did happen to be some, I can assure you that we would not treat them as you treat them now. We would not dress them up in silk and satin and broadcloth and fine linen: we would not embellish them, as you do, with jewels of gold and jewels of silver and with precious stones; neither should we allow them to fare sumptuously every day. Our method of dealing with them would be quite different from yours. In the Co-operative Commonwealth there will be no place for loafers; whether they call themselves aristocrats or tramps, those who are too lazy to work shall have no share in the things that are produced by the labour of others. Those who do nothing shall have nothing. If any man will not work, neither shall he eat. Under the present system a man who is really too lazy to work may stop you in the street and tell you that he cannot get employment. For all you know, he may be telling the truth, and if you have any feeling and are able, you will help him. But in the Socialist State no one would have such an excuse, because everyone that was willing would be welcome to come and help in the work of producing wealth and happiness for all, and afterwards he would also be welcome to his full share of the results.’
‘The wealthy ones cannot be expected voluntarily to come and work under existing conditions and if they were to do so they would be doing more harm than good–they would be doing some poor wretches out of employment. They are not to be blamed; the people who are to blame are the working classes themselves, who demand and vote for the continuance of the present system. As for the other class of loafers–those at the bottom, the tramps and people of that sort, if they were to become sober and industrious tomorrow, they also would be doing more harm than good to the other workers; it would increase the competition for work. Some of them are such simply because they would rather starve than submit to the degrading conditions that we submit to, they do not see the force of being bullied and chased, and driven about in order to gain semi-starvation and rags. They are able to get those without working; and I sometimes think that they are more worthy of respect and are altogether a nobler type of beings than a lot of broken-spirited wretches like ourselves, who are always at the mercy of our masters, and always in dread of the sack.’
.. who’s goin’ to do all the dirty work?’
‘If everyone is to be allowed to choose ‘is own trade, who’d be fool enough to choose to be a scavenger, a sweep, a dustman or a sewer man? nobody wouldn’t want to do such jobs as them and everyone would be after the soft jobs.’
‘if it were found that too many people were desirous of pursuing certain callings, it would be known that the conditions attached to those kinds of work were unfairly easy, as compared with other lines, so the conditions in those trades would be made more severe. A higher degree of skill would be required. If we found that too many persons wished to be doctors, architects, engineers and so forth, we would increase the severity of the examinations. This would scare away all but the most gifted and enthusiastic. We should thus at one stroke reduce the number of applicants and secure the very best men for the work–we should have better doctors, better architects, better engineers than before.
‘As regards those disagreeable tasks for which there was a difficulty in obtaining volunteers, we should adopt the opposite means. Suppose that six hours was the general thing; and we found that we could not get any sewer men; we should reduce the hours of labour in that department to four, or if necessary to two, in order to compensate for the disagreeable nature of the work. ‘Another way out of such difficulties would be to have a separate division of the Industrial army to do all such work, and to make it obligatory for every man to put in his first year of State service as a member of this corps. There would be no hardship in that. Everyone gets the benefit of such work; there would be no injustice in requiring everyone to share. This would have the effect also of stimulating invention; it would be to everyone’s interest to think out means of doing away with such kinds of work and there is no doubt that most of it will be done by machinery in some way or other. A few years ago the only way to light up the streets of a town was to go round to each separate gas lamp and light each jet, one at a time: now, we press a few buttons and light up the town with electricity. In the future we shall probably be able to press a button and flush the sewers.’
‘What about religion?
‘Everybody will be perfectly free to enjoy their own opinions and to practise any religion they like; but no religion or sect will be maintained by the State. If any congregation or body of people wish to have a building for their own exclusive use as a church or chapel or lecture hall it will be supplied to them by the State on the same terms as those upon which dwelling houses will be supplied; the State will construct the special kind of building and the congregation will have to pay the rent, the amount to be based on the cost of construction, in paper money of course. As far as the embellishment or decoration of such places is concerned, there will of course be nothing to prevent the members of the congregation if they wish from doing any such work as that themselves in their own spare time of which they will have plenty.’
‘If everybody’s got to do their share of work, where’s the minister and clergymen to come from?’ ‘There are at least three ways out of that difficulty. First, ministers of religion could be drawn from the ranks of the Veterans–men over forty-five years old who had completed their term of State service. You must remember that these will not be worn out wrecks, as too many of the working classes are at that age now. They will have had good food and clothing and good general conditions all their lives; and consequently they will be in the very prime of life. They will be younger than many of us now are at thirty; they will be ideal men for the positions we are speaking of. All well educated in their youth, and all will have had plenty of leisure for self culture during the years of their State service and they will have the additional recommendation that their congregation will not be required to pay anything for their services. ‘Another way: If a congregation wished to retain the full-time services of a young man whom they thought specially gifted but who had not completed his term of State service, they could secure him by paying the State for his services; thus the young man would still remain in State employment, he would still continue to receive his pay from the National Treasury, and at the age of forty-five would be entitled to his pension like any other worker, and after that the congregation would not have to pay the State anything. ‘A third–and as it seems to me, the most respectable way–would be for the individual in question to act as minister or pastor or lecturer or whatever it was, to the congregation without seeking to get out of doing his share of the State service. The hours of obligatory work would be so short and the work so light that he would have abundance of leisure to prepare his orations without sponging on his co-religionists.’
‘Of course,’ …, ‘it would not only be congregations of Christians who could adopt any of these methods. It is possible that a congregation of agnostics, for instance, might want a separate building or to maintain a lecturer.’ …
Meantime, what we have to do is to insist upon the duty of the State to provide productive work for the unemployed, the State feeding of schoolchildren, the nationalization or Socialization of Railways; Land; the Trusts, and all public services that are still in the hands of private companies. If you wish to see these things done, you must cease from voting for Liberal and Tory sweaters, shareholders of companies, lawyers, aristocrats, and capitalists; and you must fill the House of Commons with Revolutionary Socialists. That is–with men who are in favour of completely changing the present system. And in the day that you do that, you will have solved the poverty “problem”. No more tramping the streets begging for a job! No more hungry children at home. No more broken boots and ragged clothes. No more women and children killing themselves with painful labour whilst strong men stand idly by; but joyous work and joyous leisure for all.’
…the Army and Navy?’
‘Yes; it is true. Socialists believe in International Brotherhood and peace. Nearly all wars are caused by profit-seeking capitalists, seeking new fields for commercial exploitation, and by aristocrats who make it the means of glorifying themselves in the eyes of the deluded common people. You must remember that Socialism is not only a national, but an international movement and when it is realized, there will be no possibility of war, and we shall no longer need to maintain an army and navy, or to waste a lot of labour building warships or manufacturing arms and ammunition. All those people who are now employed will then be at liberty to assist in the great work of producing the benefits of civilization; creating wealth and knowledge and happiness for themselves and others—
Socialism means Peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind. But in the meantime we know that the people of other nations are not yet all Socialists; we do not forget that in foreign countries–just the same as in Britain–there are large numbers of profit seeking capitalists, who are so destitute of humanity, that if they thought it could be done successfully and with profit to themselves they would not scruple to come here to murder and to rob. We do not forget that in foreign countries–the same as here–there are plenty of so-called “Christian” bishops and priests always ready to give their benediction to any such murderous projects, and to blasphemously pray to the Supreme Being to help his children to slay each other like wild beasts. And knowing and remembering all this, we realize that until we have done away with capitalism, aristocracy and anti-Christian clericalism, it is our duty to be prepared to defend our homes and our native land. And therefore we are in favour of maintaining national defensive forces in the highest possible state of efficiency.
But that does not mean that we are in favour of the present system of organizing those forces. We do not believe in conscription, and we do not believe that the nation should continue to maintain a professional standing army to be used at home for the purpose of butchering men and women of the working classes in the interests of a handful of capitalists, as has been done at Featherstone and Belfast; or to be used abroad to murder and rob the people of other nations. Socialists advocate the establishment of a National Citizen Army, for defensive purposes only. We believe that every able bodied man should be compelled to belong to this force and to undergo a course of military training, but without making him into a professional soldier, or taking him away from civil life, depriving him of the rights of citizenship or making him subject to military “law” which is only another name for tyranny and despotism.
This Citizen Army could be organized on somewhat similar lines to the present Territorial Force, with certain differences. For instance, we do not believe–as our present rulers do–that wealth and aristocratic influence are the two most essential qualifications for an efficient officer; we believe that all ranks should be attainable by any man, no matter how poor, who is capable of passing the necessary examinations, and that there should be no expense attached to those positions which the Government grant, or the pay, is not sufficient to cover. The officers could be appointed in any one of several ways: They might be elected by the men they would have to command, the only qualification required being that they had passed their examinations, or they might be appointed according to merit–the candidate obtaining the highest number of marks at the examinations to have the first call on any vacant post, and so on in order of merit. We believe in the total abolition of courts martial, any offence against discipline should be punishable by the ordinary civil law–no member of the Citizen Army being deprived of the rights of a citizen.’
‘What about the Navy?’
‘Nobody wants to interfere with the Navy except to make its organization more democratic–the same as that of the Citizen Army–and to protect its members from tyranny by entitling them to be tried in a civil court for any alleged offence. ‘It has been proved that if the soil of this country were scientifically cultivated, it is capable of producing sufficient to maintain a population of a hundred millions of people. Our present population is only about forty millions, but so long as the land remains in the possession of persons who refuse to allow it to be cultivated we shall continue to be dependent on other countries for our food supply. So long as we are in that position, and so long as foreign countries are governed by Liberal and Tory capitalists, we shall need the Navy to protect our overseas commerce from them. If we had a Citizen Army such as I have mentioned, of nine or ten millions of men and if the land of this country was properly cultivated, we should be invincible at home. No foreign power would ever be mad enough to attempt to land their forces on our shores. But they would now be able to starve us all to death in a month if it were not for the Navy.
‘Even in times of peace, thousands of people standing idle and tamely starving in their own fertile country, because a few land “Lords” forbid them to cultivate it.’
… what’s the difference between a Liberal and a Tory employer. There is none–there can’t be; they’re both sweaters, and they’ve got to be, or they wouldn’t be able to compete with each other. And since that’s what they are, I say it’s a mug’s game for us to vote ‘em into Parliament to rule over us and to make laws that we’ve got to abide by whether we like it or not. There’s nothing to choose between ‘em, and the proof of it is that it’s never made much difference to us which party was in or which was out. It’s quite true that in the past both of ‘em have passed good laws, but they’ve only done it when public opinion was so strong in favour of it that they knew there was no getting out of it, and then it was a toss up which side did it.
….Socialism is the only remedy for Unemployment and Poverty.”‘