NEW WORLDS FOR OLD
A PLAIN ACCOUNT OF MODERN SOCIALISM
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
The Plattner Story and others Tales of Space and Time The Stolen Bacillus and other Stories Twelve Stories and a Dream
The Time Machine The Island of Dr. Moreau The War of the Worlds The Wonderful Visit The Invisible Man The First Men in the Moon The Food of the Gods The Sea Lady When the Sleeper Wakes In the Days of the Comet
Love and Mr. Lewisham Kipps
SOCIOLOGICAL AND SOCIALIST ESSAYS
Anticipations Mankind in the Making A Modern Utopia The Future in America
NEW WORLDS FOR OLD
A PLAIN ACCOUNT OF MODERN SOCIALISM
H. G. WELLS
LONDON CONSTABLE & COMPANY LTD. 1912
Published March 1908. Popular Edition Revised June 1909. Reprinted July 1909, Sept. 1922
"Undiluted Atheism, theft and immorality.... I know of no language sufficiently potent to express fully my absolute detestation of what I believe to be the most poisonous doctrine ever put forward, namely Socialism."
HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF RUTLAND.
"Let all parties then unite to defeat this insidious Socialism which is threatening the country, and take immediate steps to expose and bring it to light. The country may truly be said to be sleeping over a veritable volcano which the next general election may precipitate, unless steps are taken at once to bring this nightmare into the light of day and force it out of its creeping nocturnal habits."
MR. DUDLEY S. A. COSBY in the Westminster Review.
"Many people think that it is possible to conduct a victorious campaign with the single watchword 'Down with Socialism.' Well, I am not fond of mere negatives. I do not like fighting an abstract noun. My objection to Anti-Socialism as a platform is that Socialism means so many different things. On this point I agree with Mr. Asquith. I will wait before I denounce Socialism till I see what form it takes... Socialism is not necessarily synonymous with robbery. Correctly used, the word only signifies a particular view of the proper relation of the State to its citizens, a tendency to substitute public for private ownership, or to restrict the freedom of individual enterprise in the interests of the public. But there are some forms of property which we all admit should be public and not private, and the freedom of individual enterprise is already limited by a hundred laws. Socialism and Individualism,—I am not fond of these abstract phrases. There are opposing principles which enter in various proportions into the constitution of every civilized society. It is merely a question of degree. One community is more Socialistic than another. The same community is more Socialistic at one time than at another. This country is far more Socialistic than it was fifty years ago, and for most of the changes in that direction the Unionist or Tory Party is responsible."
I. THE GOOD WILL IN MAN II. THE FUNDAMENTAL IDEA OF SOCIALISM III. THE FIRST MAIN GENERALIZATION OF SOCIALISM IV. THE SECOND MAIN GENERALIZATION OF SOCIALISM V. THE SPIRIT OF GAIN AND THE SPIRIT OF SERVICE VI. WOULD SOCIALISM DESTROY THE HOME? VII. WOULD MODERN SOCIALISM ABOLISH ALL PROPERTY? VIII. THE MIDDLE-CLASS MAN, THE BUSINESS MAN, AND SOCIALISM IX. SOME COMMON OBJECTIONS TO SOCIALISM X. SOCIALISM A DEVELOPING DOCTRINE XI. REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALISM XII. ADMINISTRATIVE SOCIALISM XIII. CONSTRUCTIVE SOCIALISM XIV. SOME ARGUMENTS AD HOMINEM XV. THE ADVANCEMENT OF SOCIALISM.
NEW WORLDS FOR OLD
THE GOOD WILL IN MAN
The present writer has long been deeply interested in the Socialist movement in Great Britain and America, and in all those complicated issues one lumps together as "social questions." In the last few years he has gone into it personally and studied the Socialist movement closely and intimately at first hand; he has made the acquaintance of many of its leaders upon both sides of the Atlantic, joined numerous organizations, attended and held meetings, experimented in Socialist politics. From these inquiries he has emerged with certain very definite conclusions as to the trend and needs of social development, and these he is now rendering in this book. He calls himself a Socialist, but he is by no means a fanatical or uncritical adherent. To him Socialism presents itself as a very noble but a very human and fallible system of ideas and motives, a system that grows and develops. He regards its spirit, its intimate substance as the most hopeful thing in human affairs at the present time, but he does also find it shares with all mundane concerns the qualities of inadequacy and error. It suffers from the common penalty of noble propositions; it is hampered by the insufficiency of its supporters and advocates, and by the superficial tarnish that necessarily falls in our atmosphere of greed and conflict darkest upon the brightest things. In spite of these admissions of failure and unworthiness in himself and those about him, he remains a Socialist.
In discussing Socialism with very various sorts of people he has necessarily had, time after time, to encounter and frame a reply to a very simple seeming and a really very difficult question: "What is Socialism?" It is almost like asking "What is Christianity?" or demanding to be shown the atmosphere. It is not to be answered fully by a formula or an epigram. Again and again the writer has been asked for some book which would set out in untechnical language, frankly and straightforwardly, what Socialism is and what it is not, and always he has hesitated in his reply. Many good books there are upon this subject, clear and well written, but none that seem to tell the whole story as he knows it; no book that gives not only the outline but the spirit, answers the main objections, clears up the chief ambiguities, covers all the ground; no book that one can put into the hands of inquiring youth and say: "There! that will tell you precisely the broad facts you want to know." Some day, no doubt, such a book will come. In the meanwhile he has ventured to put forth this temporary substitute, his own account of the faith that is in him.
 As I pass these proofs I am reminded that Mr. J. R. MacDonald has in the press Socialism (Jacks, Edinburgh)—a general account of the movement. From Mr. Kirkup's An Enquiry into Socialism and from Fabian Essays (the Fabian Society, London) a good idea of the general Socialist position may also be obtained.
Socialism, then, as he understands it, is a great intellectual process, a development of desires and ideas that takes the form of a project—a project for the reshaping of human society upon new and better lines. That in the ampler proposition is what Socialism claims to be. This book seeks to expand and establish that proposition, and to define the principles upon which the Socialist believes this reconstruction of society should go. The particulars and justification of this project and this claim, it will be the business of this book to discuss just as plainly as the writer can.
Now, because the Socialist seeks the reshaping of human society, it does not follow that he denies it to be even now a very wonderful and admirable spectacle. Nor does he deny that for many people life is even now a very good thing....
For his own part, though the writer is neither a very strong nor a very healthy nor a very successful person, though he finds much unattainable and much to regret, yet life presents itself to him more and more with every year as a spectacle of inexhaustible interest, of unfolding and intensifying beauty, and as a splendid field for high attempts and stimulating desires. Yet none the less is it a spectacle shot strangely with pain, with mysterious insufficiencies and cruelties, with pitfalls into anger and regret, with aspects unaccountably sad. Its most exalted moments are most fraught for him with the appeal for endeavour, with the urgency of unsatisfied wants. These shadows and pains and instabilities do not, to his sense at least, darken the whole prospect; it may be indeed that they intensify its splendours to his perceptions; yet all these evil and ugly aspects of life come to him with an effect of challenge, as something not to be ignored but passionately disputed, as an imperative call for whatever effort and courage lurks in his composition. Life and the world are fine, but not as an abiding place; as an arena—yes, an arena gorgeously curtained with sea and sky, mountains and broad prospects, decorated with all the delicate magnificence of leaf tracery and flower petal and feather, soft fur and the shining wonder of living skin, musical with thunder and the singing of birds; but an arena nevertheless, an arena which offers no seats for idle spectators, in which one must will and do, decide, strike and strike back—and presently pass away.
And it needs but a cursory view of history to realize—though all knowledge of history confirms the generalization—that this arena is not a confused and aimless conflict of individuals. Looked at too closely it may seem to be that—a formless web of individual hates and loves; but detach oneself but a little, and the broader forms appear. One perceives something that goes on, that is constantly working to make order out of casualty, beauty out of confusion; justice, kindliness, mercy out of cruelty and inconsiderate pressure. For our present purpose it will be sufficient to speak of this force that struggles and tends to make and do, as Good Will. More and more evident is it, as one reviews the ages, that there is this as well as lust, hunger, avarice, vanity and more or less intelligent fear to be counted among the motives of mankind. This Good Will of our race, however arising, however trivial, however subordinated to individual ends, however comically inadequate a thing it may be in this individual case or that, is in the aggregate an operating will. In spite of all the confusions and thwartings of life, the halts and resiliencies and the counter strokes of fate, it is manifest that in the long run human life becomes broader than it was, gentler than it was, finer and deeper. On the whole—and now-a-days almost steadily—things get better. There is a secular amelioration of life, and it is brought about by Good Will working through the efforts of men.
Now this proposition lies quite open to dispute. There are people who will dispute it and make a very passable case. One may deny the amelioration, or one may deny that it is the result of any Good Will or of anything but quite mechanical forces. The former is the commoner argument. The appeal is usually to what has been finest in the past, and to all that is bad and base in the present. At once the unsoundest and the most attractive argument is to be found in the deliberate idealization of particular ages, the thirteenth century in England, for example, or the age of the Antonines. The former is presented with the brightness of a missal, the latter with all the dignity of a Roman inscription. One is asked to compare these ages so delightfully conceived, with a patent medicine vendor's advertisement or a Lancashire factory town, quite ignoring the iniquity of mediaeval law or the slums and hunger and cruelty of Imperial Rome.
But quite apart from such unsound comparisons, it is, we may admit, possible to make a very excellent case against our general assertion of progress. One can instance a great number of things, big and little, that have been better in past times than they are now; for example, they dressed more sumptuously and delightfully in mediaeval Venice and Florence than we do—all, that is, who could afford it; they made quite unapproachably beautiful marble figures in Athens in the time of Pericles; there is no comparison between the brickwork of Verona in the twelfth century and that of London when Cannon Street Station was erected; the art of cookery declined after the splendid period of Roman history for more than a thousand years; the Gothic architecture of France and England exceeds in nobility and quality and aggregated beauty, every subsequent type of structure. This much, one agrees, is true, and beyond disputing. The philosophical thought of Athens again, to come to greater things, was at its climax, more free, more finely expressed than that of any epoch since. And the English of Elizabeth's time was, we are told by competent judges, a more gracious and powerful instrument of speech than in the days of Queen Anne or of Queen Victoria.
So one might go on in regard to a vast number of things, petty and large alike; the list would seem overwhelming until the countervailing considerations came into play. But, as a matter of fact, there is hardly an age or a race that does not show us something better done than ever it was before or since, because at no time has human effort ceased and absolutely failed. Isolated eminence is no proof of general elevation. Always in this field or that, whether it was in the binding of books or the enamelling of metal, the refinement of language or the assertion of liberty, particular men have, by a sort of necessity, grasped at occasion, "found themselves," as the saying goes, and done the best that was in them. So always while man endures, whatever else betide, one may feel assured at this or that special thing some men will find a way to do and get to the crown of endeavour. Such considerations of decline in particular things from the standard of the past do not really affect the general assertion of a continuous accumulating betterment in the lot of men, do not invalidate the hopes of those who believe in the power of men to end for ever many of the evils that now darken the world, who look to the reservoirs of human possibility as a supply as yet scarcely touched, who make of all the splendour and superiorities of the past no more than a bright promise and suggestion for the unborn future our every act builds up, into which, whether we care or no, all our achievements pour.
Many evils have been overcome, much order and beauty and scope for living has been evolved since man was a hairy savage holding scarcely more than a brute's intercourse with his fellows; but even in the comparatively short perspective of history, one can scarcely deny a steady process of overcoming evil. One may sneer at contemporary things; it is a fashion with that unhappily trained type of mind which cannot appreciate without invidious comparison, so poor in praise that it cannot admit worth without venting a compensatory envy; but of one permanent result of progress surely every one is assured. In the matter of thoughtless and instinctive cruelty—and that is a very fundamental matter—mankind mends steadily. I wonder and doubt if in the whole world at any time before this an aged, ill-clad woman, or a palpable cripple could have moved among a crowd of low-class children as free from combined or even isolated insult as such a one would be to-day, if caught in the rush from a London Council school. Then, for all our sins, I am sure the sense of justice is quicker and more nearly universal than ever before. Certain grave social evils, too, that once seemed innate in humanity, have gone, gone so effectually that we cannot now imagine ourselves subjected to them; the cruelties and insecurities of private war, the duel, overt slavery, for example, have altogether ceased; and in all Western Europe and America chronic local famines and great pestilences come no more. No doubt it is still an unsatisfactory world that mars the roadside with tawdry advertisements of drugs and food; but less than two centuries ago, remember, the place of these boards was taken by gibbets and crow-pecked, tattered corpses swinging in the wind, and the heads of dead gentlemen (drawn and quartered, and their bowels burnt before their eyes) rotted in the rain on Temple Bar.
The world is now a better place for a common man than ever it was before, the spectacle wider and richer and deeper, and more charged with hope and promise. Think of the universal things it is so easy to ignore; of the great and growing multitude, for example, of those who may travel freely about the world, who may read freely, think freely, speak freely! Think of the quite unprecedented numbers of well-ordered homes and cared-for, wholesome, questioning children! And it is not only that we have this increasing sea of mediocre well-being in which the realities of the future are engendering, but in the matter of sheer achievement I believe in my own time. It has been the cry of the irresponsive man since criticism began, that his own generation produced nothing; it is a cry that I hate and deny. When the dross has been cleared away and comparison becomes possible, I am convinced it will be admitted that in the aggregate, in philosophy and significant literature, in architecture, painting and scientific research, in engineering and industrial invention, in statecraft, humanity and valiant deeds, the last thirty years of man's endeavours will bear comparison with any other period of thirty years whatever in his history.
And this is the result of effort; things get better because men mean them to get better and try to bring betterment about; this progress goes on because man, in spite of evil temper, blundering and vanity, in spite of indolence and base desire, does also respond to Good Will and display Good Will. You may declare that all the good things in life are the result of causes over which man has no control, that in pursuit of an "enlightened self-interest" he makes things better inadvertently. But think of any good thing you know! Was it thus it came?
And yet, let us not disguise it from ourselves, for all the progress one can claim, life remains very evil; about the feet of all these glories of our time lurk darknesses.
Let me take but one group of facts that cry out to all of us—and will not cry in vain. I mean the lives of little children that are going on now—as the reader sits with this book in his hand. Think, for instance, of the little children who have been pursued and tormented and butchered in the Congo Free State during the last year or so, hands and feet chopped off, little bodies torn and thrown aside that rubber might be cheap, the tyres of our cars run smoothly, and that detestable product of political expediency, the King of the Belgians, have his pleasures. Think too of the fear and violence, the dirt and stress of the lives of the children who grow up amidst the lawless internal strife of the Russian political chaos. Think of the emigrant ships even now rolling upon the high seas, their dark, evil-smelling holds crammed with humanity, and the huddled sick children in them—fleeing from certain to uncertain wretchedness. Think of the dreadful tale of childish misery and suffering that goes on wherever there are not sane factory laws; how even in so civilized a part of the world as the United States of America (as Spargo's Bitter Cry of the Children tells in detail) thousands of little white children of six and seven, ill fed and often cruelly handled, toil without hope.
And in all agricultural lands too, where there is no sense of education, think of the children dragging weary feet from the filthy hovels that still house peasants the whole world over, to work in the mire and the pitiless winds, scaring birds, bending down to plant and weed. Even in London again, think just a little of the real significance of some facts I have happened upon in the Report of the Education Committee of the London County Council for the year 1905.
The headmaster of one casually selected school makes a special return upon the quality of the clothing of his 405 children. He tells of 7.4 per cent. of his boys whose clothing was "the scantiest possible—e.g. one ragged coat buttoned up and practically nothing found beneath it; and boots either absent or represented by a mass of rags tied upon the feet"; of 34.8 per cent. whose "clothing was insufficient to retain animal heat and needed urgent remedy"; of 45.9 per cent, whose clothing was "poor but passable; an old and perhaps ragged suit, with some attempt at proper underclothing—usually of flannelette"; thus leaving only 12.8 per cent. who could, in the broadest sense, be termed "well clad."
Taking want of personal cleanliness as the next indication of neglect at home, 11 per cent. of the boys are reported as "very dirty and verminous"; 34.7 per cent. whose "clothes and body were dirty but not verminous"; 42.5 per cent, were "passably clean, for boys," and only "12 per cent. clean above the average."
Eleven per cent. verminous; think what it means! Think what the homes must be like from which these poor little wretches come! Better, perhaps, than the country cottage where the cesspool drains into the water supply and the hen-house vermin invades the home, but surely intolerable beside our comforts! Give but a moment again to the significance of the figures I have italicized in the table that follows, a summarized return for the year 1906 of the "Ringworm" Nurses who visit the London Elementary Schools and inspect the children for various forms of dirt disease.
Number of Departments. children Clean. Partially Verminous. examined. cleansed. - - Boys . 34,345 32,726 847 1,139 Girls . 36,445 22,476 4,426 12,003 Infants . 42,140 6,675 2,661 29,675 Mixed . 5,855 4,886 298 897 Special . 977 624 133 296 - - Total . 119,762 67,387 8,365 44,010
Does not this speak of dirt and disorder we cannot suffer to continue, of women ill trained for motherhood and worked beyond care for cleanliness, of a vast amount of preventable suffering? And these figures of filth and bad clothing are paralleled by others at least equally impressive, displaying emaciation, under-nutrition, anaemia and every other painful and wretched consequence of neglect and insufficiency. These underfed, under-clothed, undersized children are also the backward children; they grow up through a darkened, joyless childhood into a grey, perplexing, hopeless world that beats them down at last, after servility, after toil, after crime it may be and despair, to death.
And while you grasp the offence of these facts, do not be carried away into supposing that this age is therefore unprecedentedly evil. Such dirt, toil, cruelty have always been, have been in larger measure. Don't idealize the primitive cave, the British hut, the peasant's cottage, damp and windowless, the filth-strewn, plague-stricken, mediaeval town. In spite of all these crushed, mangled, starved, neglected little ones about the feet of this fine time, in spite of a thousand other disorders and miseries almost as cruel, the fact remains that this age has not only more but a larger percentage of healthy, happy, kindly-treated children than any age since the world began; that to look back into the domestic history of other times is to see greater squalor and more suffering.
Why! read the tombstones and monuments in any old English church, those, I mean, that date from earlier than 1800, and you will see the history of every family, of even the prosperous county families, laced with the deaths of infants and children. Nearly half of them died. Think, too, how stern was the upbringing. And always before these days it seemed natural to make all but the children of the very wealthy and very refined, fear and work from their earliest years. There comes to us too, from these days, beautiful furniture, fine literature, paintings; but there comes too, much evidence of harsh whippings, dark imprisonments and hardly a children's book, hardly the broken vestige of a toy. Bad as things are, they are better—rest assured—and yet they are still urgently bad. The greater evil of the past is no reason for contentment with the present. But it is an earnest for hoping that our efforts, and that Good Will of which they are a part and outcome, may still go on bearing fruit in perpetually dwindling misery.
It seems to me that the whole spirit and quality of both the evil and the good of our time, and of the attitude not simply of the Socialist but of every sane reformer towards these questions, was summarized in a walk I had a little while ago with a friend along the Thames Embankment, from Blackfriars Bridge to Westminster. We had dined together and we went there because we thought that with a fitful moon and clouds adrift, on a night when the air was a crystal air that gladdened and brightened, that crescent of great buildings and steely, soft-hurrying water must needs be altogether beautiful. And indeed it was beautiful; the mysteries and mounting masses of the buildings to the right of us, the blurs of this coloured light or that, blue-white, green-white, amber or warmer orange, the rich black archings of Waterloo Bridge, the rippled lights upon the silent-flowing river, the lattice of girders and the shifting trains of Charing Cross Bridge—their funnels pouring a sort of hot-edged moonlight by way of smoke—and then the sweeping line of lamps, the accelerated run and diminuendo of the Embankment lamps as one came into sight of Westminster. The big hotels were very fine, huge swelling shapes of dun dark-grey and brown, huge shapes seamed and bursting and fenestrated with illumination, tattered at a thousand windows with light and the indistinct, glowing suggestions of feasting and pleasure. And dim and faint above it all and very remote was the moon's dead wan face veiled and then displayed.
But we were dashed by an unanticipated refrain to this succession of magnificent things, and we did not cry, as we had meant to cry, how good it was to be alive! We found something else, something we had forgotten.
Along the Embankment, you see, there are iron seats at regular intervals, seats you cannot lie upon because iron arm-rests prevent that, and each seat, one saw by the lamplight, was filled with crouching and drooping figures. Not a vacant place remained, not one vacant place. These were the homeless, and they had come to sleep here. Now one noted a poor old woman with a shameful battered straw hat awry over her drowsing face, now a young clerk staring before him at despair; now a filthy tramp, and now a bearded, frock-coated, collarless respectability; I remember particularly one ghastly long white neck and white face that lopped backward, choked in some nightmare, awakened, clutched with a bony hand at the bony throat, and sat up and stared angrily as we passed. The wind had a keen edge that night even for us who had dined and were well clad. One crumpled figure coughed and went on coughing—damnably.
"It's fine," said I, trying to keep hold of the effects to which this line of poor wretches was but the selvage; "it's fine! But I can't stand this."
"It changes all that we expected," admitted my friend, after a silence.
"Must we go on—past them all?"
"Yes. I think we ought to do that. It's a lesson, perhaps—for trying to get too much beauty out of life as it is—and forgetting. Don't shirk it!"
"Great God!" cried I. "But must life always be like this? I could die—indeed, I would willingly jump into this cold and muddy river now, if by so doing I could stick a stiff dead hand through all these things—into the future; a dead commanding hand insisting with a silent irresistible gesture that this waste and failure of life should cease, and cease for ever."
"But it does cease! Each year its proportion is a little less."
I walked in silence, and my companion talked by my side.
"We go on. Here is a good thing done, and there is a good thing done. The Good Will in man——"
"Not fast enough. It goes so slowly—and in a little while we too must die——"
"It can be done," said my companion.
"It could be avoided," said I.
"It shall be in the days to come. There is food enough for all, shelter for all, wealth enough for all. Men need only know it and will it. And yet we have this!"
"And so much like this!" said I....
So we talked and were tormented.
And I remember how later we found ourselves on Westminster Bridge, looking back upon the long sweep of wrinkled black water that reflected lights and palaces and the flitting glow of steamboats, and by that time we had talked ourselves past our despair. We perceived that what was splendid remained splendid, that what was mysterious remained insoluble for all our pain and impatience. But it was clear to us the thing for us two to go upon was not the good of the present nor the evil, but the effort and the dream of the finer order, the fuller life, the banishment of suffering, to come.
"We want all the beauty that is here," said my friend, "and more also. And none of these distresses. We are here—we know not whence nor why—to want that and to struggle to get it, you and I and ten thousand others, thinly hidden from us by these luminous darknesses. We work, we pass—whither I know not, but out of our knowing. But we work—we are spurred to work. That yonder—those people are the spur—for us who cannot answer to any finer appeal. Each in our measure must do. And our reward? Our reward is our faith. Here is my creed to-night. I believe—out of me and the Good Will in me and my kind there comes a regenerate world—cleansed of suffering and sorrow. That is our purpose here—to forward that. It gives us work for all our lives. Why should we ask to know more? Our errors—our sins—to-night they seem to matter very little. If we stumble and roll in the mud, if we blunder against each other and hurt one another——"
"We have to go on," said my friend, after a pause.
We stood for a time in silence.
One's own personal problems came and went like a ripple on the water. Even that whisky dealer's advertisement upon the southern bank became through some fantastic transformation a promise, an enigmatical promise flashed up the river reach in letters of fire. London was indeed very beautiful that night. Without hope she would have seemed not only as beautiful but as terrible as a black panther crouching on her prey. Our hope redeemed her. Beyond her dark and meretricious splendours, beyond her throned presence jewelled with links and points and cressets of fire, crowned with stars, robed in the night, hiding cruelties, I caught a moment's vision of the coming City of Mankind, of a city more wonderful than all my dreaming, full of life, full of youth, full of the spirit of creation....
THE FUNDAMENTAL IDEA OF SOCIALISM
The fundamental idea upon which Socialism rests is the same fundamental idea as that upon which all real scientific work is carried on. It is the denial that chance impulse and individual will and happening constitute the only possible methods by which things may be done in the world. It is an assertion that things are in their nature orderly, that things may be computed, may be calculated upon and foreseen. In the spirit of this belief Science aims at a systematic knowledge of material things. "Knowledge is power," knowledge that is frankly and truly exchanged—that is the primary assumption of the New Atlantis which created the Royal Society and the organization of research. The Socialist has just that same faith in the order, the knowableness of things and the power of men in co-operation to overcome chance; but to him, dealing as he does with the social affairs of men, it takes the form not of schemes for collective research but for collective action and the creation of a comprehensive design for all the social activities of man. While Science gathers knowledge, Socialism in an entirely harmonious spirit criticizes and develops a general plan of social life. Each seeks to replace disorder by order.
Each of these systems of ideas has, of course, its limits; we know in matters of material science that no calculated quantity is ever exact, no outline without a fogging at the edge, no angle without a curve at the apex; and in social affairs also, there must needs always be individuality and the unexpected and incalculable. But these things do not vitiate the case for a general order, any more than the different sizes and widths and needs of the human beings who travel prevent our having our railway carriages and seats and doors of a generally convenient size, nor our sending everybody over the same gauge of rail.
Now Science has not only this in common with Socialism that it has grown out of men's courageous confidence in the superiority of order to muddle, but these two great processes of human thought are further in sympathy in the demand they make upon men to become less egotistical and isolated. The main difference of modern scientific research from that of the middle ages, the secret of its immense successes, lies in its collective character, in the fact that every fruitful experiment is published, every new discovery of relationships explained. In a sense scientific research is a triumph over natural instinct, over that mean instinct that makes men secretive, that makes a man keep knowledge to himself and use it slyly to his own advantage. The training of a scientific man is a training in what an illiterate lout would despise as a weakness; it is a training in blabbing, in blurting things out, in telling just as plainly as possible and as soon as possible what it is he has found. To "keep shut" and bright-eyed and to score advantages, that is the wisdom of the common stuff of humanity still. To science it is a crime. The noble practice of that noble profession medicine, for example, is to condemn as a quack and a rascal every man who uses secret remedies. And it is one of the most encouraging things for all who speculate upon human possibility to consider the multitude of men in the last three centuries who have been content to live laborious, unprofitable, and for the most part quite undistinguished lives in the service of knowledge that has transformed the world. Some names indeed stand out by virtue of gigantic or significant achievement, such names as Bacon, Newton, Volta, Darwin, Faraday, Joule; but these are but the culminating peaks of a nearly limitless Oberland of devoted toiling men, men one could list by the thousand. The rest have had the smallest meed of fame, small reward, much toil, much abandonment, of pleasure for their lot. One thing ennobles them all in common—their conquest over the meanness of concealment, their systematic application of energy to other than personal ends!
And that, too, Socialism pre-eminently demands. It applies to social and economic relationships the same high rule of frankness and veracity, the same subordination of purely personal considerations to a common end that Science demands in the field of thought and knowledge. Just as Science aims at a common organized body of knowledge to which all its servants contribute and in which they share, so Socialism insists upon its ideal of an organized social order which every man serves and by which every man benefits. Their common enemy is the secret-thinking, self-seeking man. Secrecy, subterfuge and the private gain; these are the enemies of Socialism and the adversaries of Science. At times, I will admit, both Socialist and scientific man forget this essential sympathy. You will find specialized scientific investigators who do not realize they are, in effect, Socialists, and Socialists so dull to the quality of their own professions, that they gird against Science, and are secretive in policy. But such purblind servants of the light cannot alter the essential correlation of the two systems of ideas.
Now the Socialist, inspired by this conception of a possible frank and comprehensive social order to which mean and narrow ends must be sacrificed, attacks and criticizes the existing order of things at a great number of points and in a great variety of phraseology. At all points, however, you will find upon analysis that his criticism amounts to a declaration that there is wanting a sufficiency of CONSTRUCTIVE DESIGN. That in the last resort is what he always comes to.
He wants a complete organization for all those human affairs that are of collective importance. He says, to take instances almost haphazard, that our ways of manufacturing a great multitude of necessary things, of getting and distributing food, of conducting all sorts of business, of begetting and rearing children, of permitting diseases to engender and spread are chaotic and undisciplined, so badly done that here is enormous hardship, and there enormous waste, here excess and degeneration, and there privation and death. He declares that for these collective purposes, in the satisfaction of these universal needs, mankind presents the appearance and follows the methods of a mob when it ought to follow the method of an army. In place of disorderly individual effort, each man doing what he pleases, the Socialist wants organized effort and a plan. And while the scientific man seeks to make an orderly map of the half-explored wilderness of fact, the Socialist seeks to make an orderly plan for the half-conceived wilderness of human effort.
That and no other is the essential Socialist idea.
But do not let this image mislead you. When the Socialist speaks of a plan, he knows clearly that it is impossible to make a plan as an architect makes a plan, because while the architect deals with dead stone and timber, the statesman and Socialist deal with living and striving things. But he seeks to make a plan as one designs and lays out a garden, so that sweet and seemly things may grow, wide and beautiful vistas open and weeds and foulness disappear. Always a garden plan develops and renews itself and discovers new possibilities, but what makes all its graciousness and beauty possible is the scheme and the persistent intention, the watching and the waiting, the digging and burning, the weeder clips and the hoe. That is the sort of plan, a living plan for things that live and grow, that the Socialist seeks for social and national life.
To make all this distincter I will show the planlessness of certain contemporary things, of two main sets of human interests in fact, and explain what inferences a Socialist draws in these matters. You will then see exactly what is meant when we deny that this present state of affairs has any constructive plan, and you will appreciate in the most generalized form the nature of the constructive plan which Socialists are making and offering the world.
THE FIRST MAIN GENERALIZATION OF SOCIALISM
The first—the chief aspect of social life in relation to which the Socialist finds the world now planless and drifting, and for which he earnestly propounds the scheme of a better order, is that whole side of existence which is turned towards children, their begetting and upbringing, their care and education. Perpetually the world begins anew, perpetually death wipes out failure, disease, unteachableness and all that has served life and accomplished itself; and to many Socialists, if not to all, this is the supreme fact in the social scheme. The whole measure of progress in a generation is the measure in which the children improve in physical and mental quality, in social co-ordination, in opportunity, upon their parents. Nothing else matters in the way of success if in that way the Good Will fails.
Let us now consider how such matters stand in our world at the present time, and let us examine them in the light of the Socialist spirit. I have already quoted certain facts from the London Education Committee's Report, by which you have seen that by taking a school haphazard—dipping a ladle, as it were, into the welter of the London population—we find more than eighty in the hundred of the London children insufficiently clad, more than half unwholesomely dirty—eleven per cent. verminous—and more than half the infants infested with vermin! The nutrition of these children is equally bad. The same report shows clearly that differences in clothing and cleanliness are paralleled with differences in nutrition that are equally striking.
"The 30 boys of the lowest class showed considerable failure to reach the average weight for their age of the school; the average shortage per boy for his age being as much as .7 kilogram. The effect upon weight was more striking than upon height, as the average failure in height was one centimetre. The 141 boys of the next class worked out at exactly the average. The 49 well-clad boys showed an average excess per age-weight of .54 kilogram and age-height of 1.8 centimetres."
And who can doubt the amount of mental and moral dwarfing that is going on side by side with this physical shortage?
Now, it may be argued that this is not a fair sample of our general population, that these facts have been culled from a special section of the population, that here we are dealing with the congestion of London slums and altogether exceptional conditions. This is not so. The school examined was not from a specially bad district. And it happens that the entire working-class population of one typical English town, York, has been exhaustively studied by Mr. B. S. Rowntree, and here are some facts from his result that quite confirm the impression given by the London figures.
"It was quite impossible to make a thorough examination of the physical condition of all the children, but as they came up to be weighed and measured, they were classified under the four headings, 'Very Good,' 'Good,' 'Fair,' or 'Bad,' by an investigator whose training and previous experience in similar work enabled her to make a reliable, even if rough, classification....
"'Bad' implies that the child bore physical traces of underfeeding and neglect.
"The numbers classified under the various heads were as follows:—
BOYS. Very Good, Good, Fair, Bad, per cent. per cent. per cent. per cent. Section 1 (poorest) 2.8 14.6 31. 51.6 Section 2 (middle) 7.4 20.1 53.7 18.8 Section 3 (highest) 27.4 33.8 27.4 11.4
Section 1 (poorest) 2.1 14.6 31. 52.3 Section 2 (middle) 7.5 21.2 50.4 20.9 Section 3 (highest) 27.2 38. 23.1 11.7
"It will be seen that the proportion of children classed as 'very good' in Section 3 is about ten times as large as in the poorest section, and that more than half of the children in the poorest section are classed as 'bad.'
"These 'bad' children presented a pathetic spectacle, all bore some mark of the hard conditions against which they were struggling. Puny and feeble bodies, dirty and often sadly insufficient clothing, sore eyes, in many cases acutely inflamed through continued want of attention, filthy heads, cases of hip disease, swollen glands—all these and other signs told the same tale of privation and neglect. It will be noticed that the condition of the children in Section 2 (middle-class labour) comes about half-way between Sections 1 and 3. In considering the above table it must of course be remembered that there was no absolute standard by which each child could be judged, but the broad comparison between the different classes is unimpeachable. The table affords further evidence of serious physical deterioration amongst the poorest section of the community."
And if York and London will not satisfy, let the reader take Edinburgh, whose Charity Organization Society has produced an admirable but infinitely distressing report of the physical conditions of the school children there. It gives a summary account of the homes of fourteen hundred children in one of the Edinburgh Elementary Schools, selected because it represented a fair mixture of prosperous and unprosperous people. I take the first ten entries of this list just as they come, representing thirty-eight children, and they are a fair sample of the whole list. No amount of writing could make these little thumbnail sketches of the reality of domestic life among our population to-day more impressive than they are, thus barrenly given.
"1. A bad home. Woman twice married; second husband deserted her six or seven years ago and she now keeps a bad house in which much drinking and rioting goes on. Daughter on stage sends 10/- a week, son is out of work. A son is in an institution. All as filthy as is the house. The food is irregular. Two children have had free dinners from school this and last winter, clothes were also given for one each time. The boy attends regularly. The woman is a hard drinker, and gets money in undesirable ways. The eldest child has glands, neck; hair not good but clean; fleabitten. The second child, adenoids and tonsils. Housing: five in one room. Evidence from Police, School Charity, Headmistress, School Officers and Doctors.
"2. The drinking capacity of this family cannot be too much emphasized. The parents can't agree, and live apart, the man allowing 7/6 a week when girl is with mother, and 5/- when she comes to him. She is verminous and very badly kept. Mother can't get charing, as she lives in so bad a neighbourhood, so means to move; at present she keeps other women's babies at 6d. a day each. Elder boy out of work, a tidy lad, reads in Free Library. One child has died. Housing: three in one room. House not so very untidy. Evidence from Police, Church and Officer.
"3. A miserable family and in very wretched circumstances. Father deserts home at intervals, but last time seemed 'sent back by providence,' as the works in the town he was in were burnt down. Children starving in his absence; one had pneumonia, and died since of the effects. The eldest child has adenoids; the second, urticaria; lice, bad; clothes full of pediculi. Housing: six in two rooms. Mother hard-working, does her best, but has chronic bronchitis; does not keep house over tidy. The two elder boys are very idle, tiresome fellows, and worry the father a great deal. They improved and found work during the year following the visit, in which time the father got into decent work in the City. The S. P. C. C. branch had to interfere on behalf of small children. Three dead since marriage, when parents were at ages 23 and 20. Food good when there is any. School gave free dinners and clothes to two. Evidence from Police, S. P. C. C. branch, School Charity, Parish Sister, Employer, Headmistress, School Officer and Doctors.
"4. The father a complete wreck through intemperate and fast living; speculation first brought him down. Was later moved to hospital, where he died. Had worked on railway a little time. Mother hard-working, works out, home untidy owing to her being out so much. She pays rent regularly, and does her best. An elder boy groom, fed and clad by his master, sends home what he can. Eldest boy does odd jobs, but seems a wastrel. Parish gave 7/6 after father ill, and feeds four children now. Winter of visit school dined five free daily, and clothed three, and previous winter three had free dinners and two had clothes. A school-boy earns. The twins are delicate. There are two lodgers. The eldest child very dirty; the second, glands; the third, knock-kneed, pigeon chest; very feeble, enlarged radices. Three children have died. Housing: nine in three rooms. Evidence from Police, Poor Law Officer, Parish Sister, School Charity, Army Charity, Children's Employment, School Officer, Factor, Pawnbroker and Doctors.
"5. The mother, a nice, clean, tidy woman, doing pretty well by the children. They kept a little shop for a time, and she used to do a day's charing now and then, but has too many babies now. Parents married at 21 and 18 respectively; two children dead and another expected. He reads papers a good deal, gets them out of trains. This is his first spell of regular work. Two boys sell papers, and a Mission gives cheap meal. Food none too plentiful. One child gets free dinners. The eldest child has glands; impetigo; thin and badly nourished. The second, glands, hair lice and nits bad. The third, boils on neck, glands, thin. The fourth, glands. Housing: eight in two rooms. They are in two thrift societies. Evidence from School-master, Police, Parish Sister, Club, Army Charity, Charity School, Pawnbroker and Doctors.
"6. Father works in a shop in daytime, and in a public-house at night. Rather soft; but wife industrious and energetic and does her best. Children well fed and regular at school. Two children have enlarged tonsils. They get no help, and belong to two thrift societies. One of six children dead in ten years of married life. Housing: seven in two rooms. Evidence from Police, Doctors, Society, Church, Mission, Club, Headmistress, Charity School and Pawnbrokers.
"7. A family where parents are much given to drink; father invalided and being helped by a Sick Society, 3/- a week, and Parish 5/- a week. Housing: five in two rooms. They are in a burying club. Children fleabitten. Two have died. Food is rather scanty. Wife very quarrelsome and drunken. The boys play truant often. Two were given free food and clothes two winters ago, and this winter one has free dinners and clothes given. A Mission has given cheap clothes. Evidence from School-master, Police, Poor Law Officer, C.O.S. branch, Church, School Charity, Sick Society, Children's Employment, Factor, School Officer, Charity School, Pawnbroker and Doctors.
"8. Fairly decent family; mother washes out, and man has very early work. He drinks, and his employment is somewhat irregular. A son in the country on a farm, and two dead. They were married at 21 and 18. The food is erratic, the children getting 'pieces' at dinner-time, or free school dinners; or when mother comes home, soup with her. The children are rather neglected, and the police give the parents an indifferent character. The eldest child has Eustacian catarrh and nasopharyngitis; glands. The second, enlarged uvula. Housing: four in two very small rooms. Evidence from School-master, Police, Parish Sister, Church, Factor and Doctors.
"9. Father an old soldier without a pension, who reads novels. All the small children were found eating a large meal of ham and eggs and strong tea after 8 p.m., he in bed at the time. They have lapsed from thrift society membership. They are extremely filthy and the man drinks. A Mission sells them meal cheap. Wife 18 at marriage and one child died. They feed pretty largely but unhealthily, and eat 'pieces' at lunch-time. At time of visit, though very dirty, they were tidier than ever found before. The eldest child has chronic suppuration and large perforation of ear. Housing: five in two rooms. Evidence from Police, Parish Sister, Factor, Soldiers' Society, Charity School and Doctors.
"10. The man a carter, who drank to a certain extent, and died some months after visit, when a Charity gave her help. She had an illegitimate child and two others. He was careless, and both neglected church-going. No medical evidence. Housing: five in two rooms. Evidence from Police, two Churches, Parish Sister, Employer and Charity School."
Now to the Socialist, as to any one who has caught any tinge of the modern scientific spirit, these facts present themselves simply as an atrocious failure of statesmanship. Indeed, a social system in which the mass of the population is growing up under these conditions, he scarcely recognizes as a State, rather it seems to him a mere preliminary higgledy-piggledy aggregation of human beings, out of which a State has to be made. It seems to him that this wretched confusion of affairs which repeats itself throughout the country wherever population has gathered, must be due to more than individual inadequacy; it must be due to some general and essential failure, some unsoundness in the broad principles upon which the whole organization is conducted.
What is this general principle of failure beneath all these particular cases?
In any given instance this or that reason for the failure of a child may be given. In one case it may be the father or mother drinks, in another that the child is an orphan, neglected by aunt or stepmother, in another that the mother is an invalid or a sweated worker too overwrought to do much for him, or, though a good-hearted soul, she is careless and dirty or ignorant, or that she is immoral and reckless, and so on and so on. Our haphazard sample of ten Scotch cases gives instances of nearly all these alternatives. And from these proximate causes one might work back to more general ones, to the necessity of controlling the drink traffic, of abolishing sweating, of shortening women's hours of labour, of suppressing vice. But for the present argument it is not necessary to follow up these special causes. We can make a wider generalization. For our present analysis it is sufficient to say that one more general maladjustment covers every case of neglected or ill-brought-up children in the world, and that is this, that with or without a decent excuse, the parent has not been equal to the task of rearing a civilized citizen. We have demanded too much from the parent, materially and morally, and the ten cases we have quoted are just ten out of ten millions of the replies to that demand. Of fifty-two children born, fourteen are dead; and of the remainder we can hardly regard more than thirteen as being tolerably reared.
Is it not obvious then that, unless we are content that things should remain as they are, we must put the relations of parent to child on some securer and more wholesome footing than they are at the present time? We demand too much from the parent, and this being recognized, clearly there are only two courses open to us. The first is to relieve the parents by lowering the standard of our demand; the second is to relieve them by supplementing their efforts.
The first course, the Socialist holds, is not only cruel and unjust to the innocent child, but an entirely barbaric and retrogressive thing to do. It is a frank abandonment of all ideas of progress and world betterment. He puts it aside, therefore, and turns to the alternative. In doing that he comes at once into harmony with all the developmental tendencies of the last hundred years. For a hundred years there has been going on a process of supplementing and controlling parental effort.
A hundred years or so ago, the parent was the supreme authority in a child's destiny—short only of direct murder. Parents were held responsible for their children's rearing to God alone; should they fail, individual good-hearted people might, if they thought proper, step in, give food, give help—provided the parents consented, that is, but it was not admitted that the community as a whole was concerned in the matter. Parents (and guardians in the absence of parents) were allowed to starve their children, leave them naked, prey upon their children by making them work in factories or as chimney-sweeps and the like; the law was silent, the State acquiesced. Good-hearted parents, on the other hand, who were unsuccessful in the world's affairs, had the torment of seeing their children go short of food and garments, grow up ignorant and feeble, their only hope of help the chancy kindliness of their more prosperous neighbours and the ill-organized charities left by the benevolent dead.
Through all the nineteenth century the irresistible logic of necessity has been forcing people out of the belief in that state of affairs, has been making them see the impossibility of leaving things so absolutely to parental discretion and conscience, has been forcing them towards a constructive and organizing, that is to say towards a Socialist attitude. Essentially the Socialist attitude is this, an insistence that parentage can no longer be regarded as an isolated private matter; that the welfare of the children is of universal importance, and must, therefore, be finally a matter of collective concern. The State, which a hundred years ago was utterly careless of children, is now every year becoming more and more their Guardian, their Over-Parent.
To-day the power of the parents is limited in ways that would have seemed incredible a hundred years ago. In the first place they must no longer unrestrictedly use their very young children to earn money for them in toil and suffering. A great mass of labour legislation forbids them. In the next place their right to inflict punishment or to hurt wantonly has been limited in many ways. The private enterprises of charitable organizations for the prevention of cruelty and neglect has led to a growing system of law in this direction also. Nor may a parent now prevent a child getting some rudiments of an education.
Between the parent and Heaven now, in addition to the more or less legalized voluntary interference of well-disposed private people, there do appear certain rare functionaries who—while they interfere not at all between good and competent parents and their children, do, in certain instances, save a parental default from its complete fruition. There are the school attendance officer and the sanitary inspector. Then there are—in the London County Council area—the "Ringworm" nurses, who examine the children systematically and by means of certain white and red cards of remonstrance and warning intimidate the parent into good behaviour or pave the way for a prosecution. Everywhere there is the factory inspector—and in certain cases the police. All these functionaries and "accessory consciences" have been thrust in between the supremacy of the parent and the child within the century.
So much the Socialist regards as all to the good, as all in the direction of that great constructive plan of organized human welfare at which he aims. And they all amount to a destruction, so much with this and so much with that, of the independence of the family, an invasion of the old moral isolation of parent and child.
But while a number of people (who haven't read the Edinburgh Charity Organization Society's Report) are content to regard these interventions as "going far enough," the Socialist considers these things as only the beginning of the organization of the welfare of the nation's children. You will notice that all these laws and regulations at which we have glanced are in the nature of prohibitions or compulsions; few have any element of aid. By virtue of them we have diminished the power of the inferior sort of parents to do evil by their child, but we have done little or nothing to increase and stimulate their powers to do good. We may prevent them doing some sorts of evil things to the child; they may not give it poisonous things, or let it live in morally or physically contagious places, but we do not insure that they shall give it wholesome things—better than they had themselves. We must, if our work is ever to reach effectual fruition, go on to the logical completion of that process of supplementing the parent that the nineteenth century began.
Consider, for instance, the circumstances of parentage among the large section of the working classes whose girls and women engage in factory labour. In many cases the earnings of the woman are vitally necessary to the solvency of the family budget, the father's wages do not nearly cover the common expenditure. In some cases the women are unmarried, or the man is an invalid or out of work. Consider such a woman on the verge of motherhood. Either she must work in a factory right up to the birth of her child—and so damage its health through her strain and fatigue, or she must give up her work, lose money and go short of food and necessities and so damage the coming citizen. Moreover, after the child is born, either she must feed it artificially and return to work (and prosperity) soon, with a very great risk indeed that the child will die, or she must stay at home to nourish and tend it—until her landlord sells her furniture and turns her out!
 The facts of the case are put very clearly, and quite invincibly, by Miss Margaret Macmillan in Infant Mortality. See also The Babies' Tribute to the Modern Moloch, by F. Victor Fisher. (Twentieth Century Press, 1d.) These are small polemical tracts. The case is treated fully, authoritatively and without bias in Infant Mortality by Dr. G. Newman.
Now it does not need that you should be a Socialist to see how cruel and ridiculous it is to have mothers in such a dilemma. But while people who are not Socialists have no remedy to suggest, or only immediate and partial remedies, such, for example, as the forbidding of factory work to women who are about to be or have recently been mothers—an expedient which is bound to produce a plentiful crop of "concealment of birth" and infanticide convictions—the Socialist does proffer a general principle to guide the community in dealing not only with this particular hardship, but with all the kindred hardships which form a system with it. He declares that we are here in the presence of an unsound and harmful way of regarding parentage; that we treat it as a private affair, that we are still disposed to assume that people's children are almost as much their private concern as their cats, and as little entitled to public protection and assistance. The right view, he maintains, is altogether opposed to this; parentage is a public service and a public duty; a good mother is the most precious type of common individual a community can have, and to let a woman on the one hand earn a living as we do, by sewing tennis-balls or making cardboard boxes or calico, and on the other, not simply not to pay her, but to impoverish her because she bears and makes sacrifices to rear children, is the most irrational aspect of all the evolved and chancy ideas and institutions that make up the modern State. It is as if we believed our civilization existed to make cheap cotton and tennis-balls instead of fine human lives.
The Socialist takes all that the nineteenth century has done in remedial legislation as a mere earnest of all that it has still to do. He works for a consistent application of the principle that England, for example, tacitly admitted when she opened her public elementary schools and compelled the children to come in; the principle that the Community as a whole is the general Over-Parent of all its children; that the parents must be made answerable to the community for the welfare of their children, for their clear minds and clean bodies, their eyesight and weight and training; and that, on the other hand, the parents who do their duty well are as much entitled to collective provision for their needs and economic security as a soldier, a judge or any other sort of public servant.
Now do not imagine the case for the State being regarded as the Over-Parent, and for the financial support of parents is based simply upon the consideration of neglected, underfed, undereducated and poverty-blighted children. No doubt in every one of the great civilized countries of the world at the present time such children are to be counted by the hundred thousand—by the million; but there is a much stronger case to be stated in regard to that possibly greater multitude of parents who are not in default, those common people, the mass of our huge populations, the wives of the moderately skilled workers or the reasonably comfortable employees, of the middling sort of people, the two, three and four hundred pounds a year families who toil and deny themselves for love of their children, and do contrive to rear them cleanly, passably well grown, decent minded, taught and intelligent to serve the future. Consider the enormous unfairness with which we treat them, the way in which the modern State, such as it is, trades upon their instincts, their affections, their sense of duty and self-respect, to get from them for nothing the greatest social service in the world.
For while the least fortunate sort of children have at any rate the protection of the police and school inspectors, and the baser sort of parent has all sorts of public and quasi-public helps and doles, the families that make the middle mass of our population are still in the position of the families of a hundred years ago, and have no help under heaven against the world. It matters not how well the home of the skilled artisan's wife or the small business man's wife has been managed—she may have educated her children marvellously, they may be clean, strong, courteous, intelligent—if the husband gets out of work or suffers from business ill-luck or trade depression, or chances to be killed uninsured, down they all go to want. Such insurance as they are able to make, and it needs a tremendously heavy premium to secure an insurance that will not mean a heavy fall of income with the bread-winner's death—must needs be in a private insurance office, and there is no effectual guarantee for either honesty or solvency in that. In most of the petty insurance business the thrifty poor are enormously overcharged and overreached. Rumour has been busy, and I fear only too justly, with the financial outlook of some of the Friendly Societies upon which the scanty security of so many working-class families depends. Such investments as the lower and middle-class father makes of surplus profits and savings must be made in ignorance of the manoeuvres of the big and often quite ruthless financiers who control the world of prices. If he builds or trades, he does so as a small investor, at the highest cost and lowest profit. Half the big businesses in the world have been made out of the lost savings of the small investor; a point to which I shall return later. People talk as though Socialism proposed to rob the thrifty industrious man of his savings. He could not be more systematically robbed of his savings than he is at the present time. Nowhere beyond the limit of the Post Office Savings' Bank is there security—not even in the gilt-edged respectability of Consols, which in the last ten years have fallen from 114 to under 82. Consider the adventure of the thrifty well-meaning citizen who used his savings-bank hoard to buy Consols at the former price, and now finds himself the poorer for not having buried his savings in his garden. The middling sort of man saves for the sake of wife and child; our State not only fails to protect him from the adventures of the manipulating financier, but it deliberately avoids competition with banker, insurance agent and promoter. In no way can the middle-class or artisan parent escape the financier's power and get real security for his home or his children's upbringing.
Not only is every parent of any but the richest classes worried and discouraged by the universal insecurity of outlook in this private adventure world, but at every turn his efforts to do his best for his children are discouraged. If he has no children, he will have all his income to spend on his own pleasures; he need only live in a little house, he pays nothing for school, less for doctor, less for all the needs of life, and he is taxed less; his income tax is the same, no bigger; his rent, his rates, his household bills are all less....
The State will not even help him to a tolerable home, to wholesome food, to needed fuel for the new citizens he is training for it. The State now-a-days in its slow awakening does show a certain concern in the housing of the lowest classes, a concern alike stimulated and supplemented by such fine charities as Peabody's for example, but no one stands between the two-hundred-a-year man and his landlord in the pitiless struggle to get. For every need of his children whom he toils to make into good men and women, he must pay a toll of owner's profits, he must trust to the anything but intelligent greed of private enterprise.
The State will not even insist that a sufficiency of comfortable, sanitary homes shall be built for his class; if he wants the elementary convenience of a bathroom, he must pay extra toll to the water shareholder; his gas is as cheap in quality and dear in price as it can be; his bread and milk, under the laws of supply and demand, are at the legal minimum of wholesomeness; the coal trade cheerfully raises his coal in mid-winter to ruinous prices. He buys clothes of shoddy and boots of brown paper. To get any other is nearly impossible for a man with three hundred pounds a year. His newspapers, which are supported by advertisers and financiers, in order to hide the obvious injustice of this one-man-fight against the allied forces of property, din in his ears that his one grievance is local taxation, his one remedy "to keep down the rates"—the "rates" which do at least repair his roadway, police his streets, give him open spaces for his babies and help to educate his children, and which, moreover, constitute a burthen he might by a little intelligent political action shift quite easily from his own shoulders to the broad support of capital and land.
If the children of the decent skilled artisan and middle-class suffer less obviously than the poorer sort of children, assuredly the parents in wearing anxiety, in toil and limitation and disappointment, suffer more. And in less intense and dramatic, but perhaps even more melancholy ways, the children of this class do suffer. They do not die so abundantly in infancy, but they grow up, too many of them, to shabby and limited lives; in Britain they are still, as a class, extraordinarily ill educated—many of them still go to incompetent, understaffed and ill-equipped private adventure schools—they are sent into business prematurely, often at fourteen or fifteen, they become mechanical "respectable" drudges in processes they do not understand. They may escape want and squalor for a while, perhaps, but they cannot escape narrowness and limitation and a cramped and anxious life. If they get to anything better than that, it is chiefly through almost heroic parental effort and sacrifice.
The plain fact is that the better middle-class parents serve the State in this matter of child-rearing, the less is their reward, the less is their security, the greater their toil and anxiety. Is it any wonder then that throughout this more comfortable but more refined and exacting class, the skilled artisan and middle-class, there goes on something even more disastrous, from the point of view of the State, than the squalor, despair and neglect of the lower levels, and that is a very evident strike against parentage? While the very poor continue to have many children who die or grow up undersized, crippled or half-civilized, the middle mass, which can contrive with a struggle and sacrifice to rear fairly well-grown and well-equipped offspring, which has a conscience for the well-being and happiness of the young, manifests a diminishing spirit for parentage, its families fall to four, to three, to two—and in an increasing number of instances there are no children at all.
With regard to the struggling middle-class and skilled artisan class parent, even more than to the lower poor, does the Socialist insist upon the plain need, if only that our State and nation should continue, of endowment and help. He deems it not simply unreasonable but ridiculous that in a world of limitless resources, of vast expenditure, of unparalleled luxury, in which two-million-pound battleships and multi-millionaires are common objects, the supremely important business of rearing the bulk of the next generation of the middling sort of people should be left almost entirely to the unaided, unguided efforts of impoverished and struggling women and men. It seems to him almost beyond sanity to suppose that so things must or can continue.
And what I have said of the middle-class parent is true with certain modifications of all the classes above it, except that in a monarchy you reach at last one State-subsidized family—in the case of Britain a very healthy and active group, the Royal family—which is not only State supported, but also beyond the requirements of any modern Socialist, State bred. There are enormous handicaps at every other social level upon efficient parentage, and upon the training of children for any public and generous end. Parentage is treated as a private foible, and those who undertake its solemn responsibilities are put at every sort of disadvantage against those who lead sterile lives, who give all their strength and resources to vanity and socially harmful personal indulgence. These latter, with an ampler leisure and ampler means, determine the forms of pleasure and social usage, they "set the fashion" and bar pride, distinction or relaxation to the devoted parent. The typical British aristocrat is not parent bred, but class bred, a person with a lively sense of social influences and no social ideas. The one class that is economically capable of making all that can be made of its children is demoralized by the very irresponsibility of the wealth that creates this opportunity. This is still more apparent in the American plutocracy, where perhaps half the women appear to be artificially sterilized spenders of money upon frivolous things.
No doubt there is in the richer strata of the community a certain proportion of families with a real tradition of upbringing and service; such English families as the Cecils, Balfours and Trevelyans, for example, produce, generation after generation, public-spirited and highly competent men. But the family tradition in these cases is an excess of virtue rather than any necessary consequence of a social advantage; it is a defiance rather than a necessity of our economic system. It is natural that such men as Lord Hugh and Lord Robert Cecil, highly trained, highly capable, but without that gift of sympathetic imagination which releases a man from the subtle mental habituations of his upbringing, should idealize every family in the world to the likeness of their own—and find the Socialist's Over-Parent of the State not simply a needless but a mischievous and wicked innovation. They think—they will, I fear, continue to think—of England as a world of happy Hatfields, cottage Hatfields, villa Hatfields, Hatfields over the shop, and Hatfields behind the farmyard—wickedly and wantonly assailed and interfered with by a band of weirdly discontented men. It is a dream that the reader must not share. Even in the case of the rich and really prosperous it is an illusion. In no class at the present time is there a real inducement to the effectual rearing of trained and educated citizens; in every class are difficulties and discouragements.
This state of affairs, says the Socialist, is chaotic or indifferent to a sea of wretchedness and failure, in health, vigour, order and beauty. Such pleasure as it permits is a gaudy indulgence filched from children and duty; such beauty—a hectic beauty stained with injustice; such happiness—a happiness that can only continue so long as it remains blind or indifferent to a sea of wretchedness and failure. Our present system of isolated and unsupported families keeps the mass of the world beyond all necessity painful, ugly and squalid. It stands condemned, and it must end.
Let me summarize what has been said in this chapter in a compact proposition, and so complete the statement of the First Main Generalization of Socialism.
The ideas of the private individual rights of the parent and of his isolated responsibility for his children are harmfully exaggerated in the contemporary world. We do not sufficiently protect children from negligent, incompetent, selfish or wicked parents, and we do not sufficiently aid and encourage good parents; parentage is too much a matter of private adventure, and the individual family is too irresponsible. As a consequence there is a huge amount of avoidable privation, suffering and sorrow, and a large proportion of the generation that grows up, grows up stunted, limited, badly educated and incompetent in comparison with the strength, training and beauty with which a better social organization could endow it.
The Socialist holds that the community as a whole should be responsible, and every individual in the community, married or single, parent or childless, should be responsible for the welfare and upbringing of every child born into that community. This responsibility may be entrusted in whole or in part to parent, teacher or other guardian—but it is not simply the right but the duty of the State—that is to say of the organized power and intelligence of the community—to direct, to inquire, and to intervene in any default for the child's welfare.
Parentage rightly undertaken is a service as well as a duty to the world, carrying with it not only obligations but a claim, the strongest of claims, upon the whole community. It must be provided for like any other public service; in any completely civilized State it must be sustained, rewarded and controlled. And this is to be done not to supersede the love, pride and conscience of the parent, but to supplement, encourage and maintain it.
This is the first of the twin generalizations upon which the whole edifice of modern Socialism rests. Its fellow generalization we must consider in the chapter immediately to follow.
But at this point the reader unaccustomed to social questions will experience a difficulty. He will naturally think of this much of change we have broached, as if it was to happen in a world that otherwise was to remain just as the world is now, with merchants, landowners, rich and poor and all the rest of it. You are proposing, he may say, what is no doubt a highly desirable but which is also a quite impossible thing. You propose practically to educate all the young of the country and to pay at least sufficient to support them and their mothers in decency—out of what? Where will you get the money?
That is a perfectly legitimate question and one that must be answered fully if our whole project is not to fall to the ground.
So we come to the discussion of material means, of the wherewithal, that is to say to the "Economics" of Socialism. The reader will see very speedily that this great social revolution we propose necessarily involves a revolution in business and industry that will be equally far reaching. The two revolutions are indeed inseparable, two sides of one wheel, and it is scarcely possible that one could happen without the other.
Of course the community supports all its children now—the only point is that it does not support them in its collective character as a State "as a whole." All the children in the world are supported by all the people in the world, but very unfairly and irregularly, through the intervention of that great multitude of small private proprietors, the parents. When the parents fail, Charity and the Parish step in. If the reader will refer to those ten cases from Edinburgh I have already quoted in Chapter III., Sec. 1, he will note that in eight out of the ten there comes in the eleemosynary element; in the seventh case especially he will get an inkling of its waste. A change in the system that diminished (though it by no means abolished) this separate dependence of children upon parents, each child depending upon those "pieces" from its particular parental feast, need not necessarily diminish the amount of wheat, or leather, or milk in the world; the children would still get the bread and milk and boots, but through different channels and in a different spirit. They might even get more. The method of making and distribution will evidently have to be a different one and run counter to currently accepted notions; that is all. Not only is it true that a change of system need not diminish the amount of food in the world; it might even increase it. The Socialist declares that his system would increase it. He proposes a method of making and distribution, a change in industrial conditions and in the conventions of property, that he declares will not only not diminish but greatly increase the production of the world, and changes in the administration that he is equally convinced will insure a far juster and better use of all that is produced.
This side of his proposals we will proceed to consider in our next chapter.
THE SECOND MAIN GENERALIZATION OF SOCIALISM
We have considered the Socialist criticism of the present state of affairs in relation to the most important of all public questions, the question of the welfare and upbringing of the next generation. We have stated the general principle of social reconstruction that emerges from that criticism. We have now to enter upon the question of ways and means, the economic question. We have to ask whether the vision we have conjured up of a whole population well fed, well clad, well educated—in a word, well brought-up—is, after all, only an amiable dream. Is it true that humanity is producing all that it can produce at the present time, and managing everything about as well as it can be managed; that, as a matter of fact, there isn't enough of food and care to go round, and hence the unavoidable anxiety in the life of every one (except in the case of a small minority of exceptionally secure people), and the absolute wretchedness of vast myriads of the poorer sort?
The Socialist says, No! He asserts that our economic system is as chaotic and wasteful as our system of rearing children—is only another aspect of the same planlessness—that it does its work with a needless excess of friction, that it might be far simpler and almost infinitely more productive than it is.
Let us detach ourselves a little from our everyday habits of thinking in these matters; let us cease to take customary things for granted, and let us try and consider how our economic arrangements would strike a disinterested intelligence that looked at them freshly for the first time. Let us take some matter of primary economic importance, such as the housing of the population, and do our best to criticize it in this spirit of personal aloofness.
In order to do that, let us try to detach ourselves a little from our own personal interest in these affairs. Imagine a mind ignorant of our history and traditions, coming from some other sphere, from some world more civilized, from some other planet perhaps, to this earth. Would our system of housing strike it as the very wisest and most practical possible, would it really seem to be the attainable maximum of outcome for human exertion, or would it seem confused, disorderly, wasteful and bad? The Socialist holds that the latter would certainly be the verdict of such an impartial examination.
What would our visitor find in such a country as England, for example? He would find a few thousand people housed with conspicuous comfort and sumptuousness, in large, airy and often extremely beautiful homes equipped with every convenience—except such as economize labour—and waited on by many thousands of attendants. He would find next, several hundreds of thousands in houses reasonably well built, but for the most part ill designed and unpleasant to the eye, houses passably sanitary and convenient, fitted with bathrooms, with properly equipped kitchens, usually with a certain space of air and garden about them. And the rest of our millions he would find crowded into houses evidently too small for a decent life, and often dreadfully dirty and insanitary, without proper space or appliances to cook properly, wash properly or indeed perform any of the fundamental operations of a civilized life tolerably well—without, indeed, even the privacy needed for common decency. In the towns he would find most of the houses occupied by people for whose needs they were obviously not designed, and in many cases extraordinarily crowded, ramshackle and unclean; in the country he would be amazed to find still denser congestion, sometimes a dozen people in one miserable, tumble-down, outwardly picturesque and inwardly abominable two-roomed cottage, people living up against pigsties and drawing water from wells they could not help but contaminate. Think of how the intimate glimpses from the railway train one gets into people's homes upon the outskirts of any of our large towns would impress him. And being, as we assume, clear minded and able to trace cause and effect, he would see all this disorder working out in mortality, disease, misery and intellectual and moral failure.
All this would strike our visitor as a very remarkable state of affairs for reasonable creatures to endure, and probably he would not understand at first that millions of people were content to regard all this disorder as the permanent lot of humanity. He would assume that this must be a temporary state of affairs due to some causes unknown to him, some great migration, for example. He would suppose we were all busy putting things right. He would see on the one hand unemployed labour and unemployed material; on the other, great areas of suitable land and the crying need for more and better homes than the people had, and it would seem the most natural thing in the world that the directing intelligence of the community should set the unemployed people to work with the unemployed material upon the land to house the whole population fairly and well. There exists all that is needed to house the whole population admirably, the building material, the room, the unoccupied hands. Why is it not being done?
Our answer would be, of course, that he did not understand our difficulties; the land was not ours to do as we liked with, it did not belong to the community but to certain persons, the Owners, who either refused to let us build upon it or buy it or have anything to do with it, or demanded money we could not produce for it; that equally the material was not ours, but belonged to certain other Owners, and that, thirdly, the community had insufficient money or credit to pay the wages and maintenance and equipment of the workers who starved and degenerated in our streets—for that money, too, was privately owned.
This would puzzle our visitor considerably.
"Why do you have Owners?" he would ask.
We might find that difficult to answer.
"But why do you let the land be owned?" he would go on. "You don't let people own the air. And these bricks and timber you mustn't touch, the mortar you need and the gold you need—they all came out of the ground—they all belonged to everybody or nobody a little while ago!"
You would say something indistinct about Property.
"Somebody must own the things."
"Well, let the State own the things and use them for the common good. It owns the roads, it owns the foreshores and the territorial seas—nobody owns the air!"
If you entered upon historical explanations with him, you would soon be in difficulties. You would find that so recently as the Feudal System—which was still living, so to speak, yesterday—the King, who stood for the State, held the land as the Realm, and the predecessors of the present owners held under him merely as the administrative officials who performed all sorts of public services and had all sorts of privileges thereby. They have dropped the services and stuck to the land and the privileges; that is all.
"I begin to perceive," our visitor would say as this became clear; "your world is under the spell of an exaggerated idea, this preposterous idea there must be an individual Owner for everything in the world. Obviously you can't get on while you are under the spell of that! So long as you have this private ownership in everything, there's no help for you. You cut up your land and material in parcels of all sorts and sizes among this multitude of irresponsible little monarchs; you let all the material you need get distributed among another small swarm of Owners, and clearly you can only get them to work for public ends in the most roundabout, tedious and wasteful way. Why should they? They're very well satisfied as they are! But if the community as a whole insisted that this idea of private Ownership you have in regard to land and natural things was all nonsense—and it is all nonsense!—just think what you might not do with it now that you have all the new powers and lights that Science has given you. You might turn all your towns into garden cities, put an end to overcrowding, abolish smoky skies——"
"Hush!" I should have to interrupt; "if you talk of the things that are clearly possible in the world to-day, they will say you are an Utopian dreamer!"
But at least one thing would have become clear, the little swarm of Owners and their claims standing in the way of any bold collective dealing with housing or any such public concern. The real work to be done here is to change an idea, that idea of ownership, to so modify it that it will cease to obstruct the rational development of life; and that is what the Socialist seeks to do.
Now the argument that the civilized housing of the masses of our population now is impossible because if you set out to do it you come up against the veto of the private owner at every stage, can be applied to almost every general public service. Some little while ago I wrote a tract for the Fabian Society about Boots; and I will not apologize for repeating here a passage from that. To begin with, this tract pointed out the badness, unhealthiness and discomfort of people's footwear as one saw it in every poor quarter, and asked why it was that things were in so disagreeable a state. There was plenty of leather in the world, plenty of labour.
 This Misery of Boots. It is intended as an introductory tract explaining the central idea of Socialism for propaganda purposes, and it is published by the Fabian Society, of 3 Clement's Inn, London, at 3d. That, together with my tract Socialism and the Family (A. C. Fifield, 44 Fleet Street, London, 6d.), gives the whole broad outline of the Socialist attitude.
"Here on the one hand—you can see for yourself in any unfashionable part of Great Britain—are people badly, uncomfortably, painfully shod in old boots, rotten boots, sham boots; and on the other great stretches of land in the world, with unlimited possibilities of cattle and leather and great numbers of people who, either through wealth or trade disorder, are doing no work. And our question is: 'Why cannot the latter set to work and make and distribute boots?'
"Imagine yourself trying to organize something of this kind of Free Booting expedition and consider the difficulties you would meet with. You would begin by looking for a lot of leather. Imagine yourself setting off to South America, for example, to get leather; beginning at the very beginning by setting to work to kill and flay a herd of cattle. You find at once you are interrupted. Along comes your first obstacle in the shape of a man who tells you the cattle and the leather belong to him. You explain that the leather is wanted for people who have no decent boots in England. He says he does not care a rap what you want it for; before you may take it from him you have to buy him off; it is his private property, this leather, and the herd and the land over which the herd ranges. You ask him how much he wants for his leather, and he tells you frankly, just as much as he can induce you to give.
"If he chanced to be a person of exceptional sweetness of disposition, you might perhaps argue with him. You might point out to him that this project of giving people splendid boots was a fine one that would put an end to much human misery. He might even sympathize with your generous enthusiasm, but you would, I think, find him adamantine in his resolve to get just as much out of you for his leather as you could with the utmost effort pay.
"Suppose, now, you said to him: 'But how did you come by this land and these herds so that you can stand between them and the people who have need of them, exacting this profit?' He would probably either embark upon a long rigmarole, or, what is much more probable, lose his temper and decline to argue. Pursuing your doubt as to the rightfulness of his property in these things, you might admit he deserved a certain reasonable fee for the rough care he had taken of the land and herds. But cattle breeders are a rude violent race, and it is doubtful if you would get far beyond your proposition of a reasonable fee. You would, in fact, have to buy off this owner of the leather at a good thumping price—he exacting just as much as he could get from you—if you wanted to go on with your project.
"Well, then you would have to get your leather here, and to do that you would have to bring it by railway and ship to this country. And here again you would find people without any desire or intention of helping your project, standing in your course resolved to make every possible penny out of you on your way to provide sound boots for every one. You would find the railway was private property and had an owner or owners; you would find the ship was private property with an owner or owners, and that none of these would be satisfied for a moment with a mere fee adequate to their services. They too would be resolved to make every penny of profit out of you. If you made inquiries about the matter, you would probably find the real owners of railway and ship were companies of shareholders, and the profit squeezed out of your poor people's boots at this stage went to fill the pockets of old ladies, at Torquay, spendthrifts in Paris, well-booted gentlemen in London clubs, all sorts of glossy people....
"Well, you get the leather to England at last; and now you want to make it into boots. You take it to a centre of population, invite workers to come to you, erect sheds and machinery upon a vacant piece of ground, and start off in a sort of fury of generous industry, boot-making.... Do you? There comes along an owner for that vacant piece of ground, declares it is his property, demands an enormous sum for rent. And your workers all round you, you find, cannot get house room until they too have paid rent—every inch of the country is somebody's property, and a man may not shut his eyes for an hour without the consent of some owner or other. And the food your shoe-makers eat, the clothes they wear, have all paid tribute and profit to land-owners, cart-owners, house-owners, endless tribute over and above the fair pay for work that has been done upon them....
"So one might go on. But you begin to see now one set of reasons at least why every one has not good comfortable boots. There could be plenty of leather; and there is certainly plenty of labour and quite enough intelligence in the world to manage that and a thousand other desirable things. But this institution of Private Property in land and naturally produced things, these obstructive claims that prevent you using ground, or moving material, and that have to be bought out at exorbitant prices, stand in the way. All these owners hang like parasites upon your enterprise at its every stage; and by the time you get your sound boots well made in England, you will find them costing about a pound a pair—high out of reach of the general mass of people. And you will perhaps not think me fanciful and extravagant when I confess that when I realize this and look at poor people's boots in the street, and see them cracked and misshapen and altogether nasty, I seem to see also a lot of little phantom land-owners, cattle-owners, house-owners, owners of all sorts, swarming over their pinched and weary feet like leeches, taking much and giving nothing and being the real cause of all such miseries."