it to its faithful disciples as the pledge and the prelude
of the imminent fall of Capitalism.
In the opinion of my esteemed opponent, the facts
and figures that I have marshalled against the increasing
misery doctrine tend to support the position of Bern-
stein, the Socialist, but give no solace or comfort to
Ryan, the anti-Socialist. Were I combating the Social-
ism of Bernstein, I should not, indeed, make use of these
142 SOCIALISM: PROMISE OR MENACE
data. Neither would he employ them in defence of
Socialism. He has used them not as an advocate, but
as a critic. Are they not quite as effective in the hands
of any other critic ? While they do not overthrow the
entire Socialist argument, they are good and pertinent
against the majority of Socialists. For the majority,
like my opponent, are still "inclined toward the orthodox
To Kautsky, the most authoritative of present-day
Socialists, these facts and figures seemed to have a tre-
mendously ominous significance. "If they are true,
then not only is the day of our victory postponed, but
we can never reach our aim. If capitalists are on the
increase and not the propertyless, then development is
setting us back further and further from our goal, then
capital intrenches itself and not Socialism, then our
hopes will never materialize." 1
Moreover, the Socialism of Bernstein for, as my
opponent triumphantly reminds me, the revisionist
leader remains "an active and militant Socialist"
does not differ appreciably from the programme of the
advanced social reformer. It is a sort of denaturalized
and devitalized Socialism, as may be seen in his book,
' ' Evolutionary Socialism . ' '
It would seem, then, that the refutation of the theory
of increasing misery is well worth while.
^'Protokoll des Stuttgarter Parteitags," 1898, p. 128.
SOCIALISM AND MORALITY
I. SOCIALIST MORALITY is IMMORAL
BY JOHN A. RYAN, D.D.
SOCIALIST ethics comprises four main elements: its
general principle, and its specific doctrines concerning
the individual, the family, and the State.
According to the general principle, the rules of morality
are neither eternal nor immutable. Not only the moral
notions and conduct of men, but the moral laws them-
selves, are temporary and variable. In other words,
the moral law has no objective existence apart from the
codes of conduct that .have prevailed among nations and
classes throughout history.
That this is the ordinary Socialist view is evident
from the pages of both the classical and the more popu-
lar writers of the movement. It is defended by Marx,
Engels, Dietzgen, Bebel, Kautsky, Hillquit, La Monte,
Herron, Untermann, Ladoff, and many others.
This doctrine of ethical relativity rests upon two
main grounds in Socialist theory ; namely, philosophical
materialism and economic determinism.
Marx, Engels, Dietzgen, and most of the other great
expounders of Socialism conceived all reality in terms
of force and matter. Their materialism was not merely
144 SOCIALISM: PROMISE OR MENACE
historico-economic, but metaphysical. 1 For them there
is no such reality as God or spirit. The thoughts and
principles in the mind's of men are merely functions or
motions of the brain. All things are in constant process
of change; nay, the process itself is the only reality.
Consequently, moral rules are like all things else, tem-
porary and variable. Murder, lying, theft, rape,
treachery, and disobedience may be morally good at
some time and in some place.
Individual Socialists who are better than their philo-
sophical creed will, of course, refuse to accept this con-
clusion, but they will do so at the expense of logic and
As we saw in Chapter IV, the theory of economic de-
terminism traces all the non-economic institutions,
beliefs, and processes of society, such as the family, law,
religion, ethics, and education, to economic conditions
and causes. "The mode of production in material life,"
says Marx, "determines the social, political, and spiritual
processes of life." 2 To quote the words of my opponent,
"the manner in which it [a nation] produces its suste-
nance ultimately determines its form of organization,
division of work or functions, and its notions of right
and wrong its politics, social classes, and ethics."
Evidently men who believe that the universe is com-
posed only of matter and force, that all things are in-
cessantly changing and evolving, and that economic
forces and changes govern and determine moral ideas,
1 Cf. "Feuerbach : The Roots of Socialist Philosophy," by F. Engels;
PP- S3, 57, 59, and passim.
*"A. Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy," p. n;
New York, 1904.
SOCIALISM AND MORALITY 145
practices, and changes, cannot logically admit the ex-
istence of an invariable and universal body of moral
precepts and principles. In their view we have merely
a group of varying moral codes which develop in, and
respond to, the needs of different classes, nations, and
ages. Moral laws are merely social laws.
According to this view, the most contradictory codes
and practices can be equally true and good, or equally
false and bad. There is neither a uniform standard of
moral truth nor a moral law in the traditional sense.
What we call moral laws are exactly like economic laws ;
that is, they are merely statements of the way in which
different classes of men act or tend to act in a given
set of circumstances. No longer is the moral law a
categorical imperative, an obligatory rule of conduct,
an enactment of Divine Reason. Men are morally free
to act as they please, and to set up,. either individually
or by classes, their own codes of conduct.
This theory is opposed not only to the Christian con-
ception, but to the convictions of every person who
recognizes God as the Ruler of the Universe. Moral
laws are unchangeable because they are based ultimately
upon the unchangeable nature of God, and immediately
upon the unchangeable elements of human nature. In
other words, they are the rules of conduct which God
necessarily lays down for the guidance of beings whom
He has made after the human pattern, just as physical
laws are the rules by which He directs the non-rational
universe. And they are as immutable as human nature
is in its essentials immutable.
The conception of an eternal and unvarying moral
law finds expression in the pages of innumerable Chris-
146 SOCIALISM: PROMISE OR MENACE
tian writers from St. Paul 1 to Hooker 2 and Cathrein. 3
Among other names that readily suggest themselves are
those of Thomas Aquinas, Francisco Suarez, and Hugo
Grotius. The doctrine is also clearly stated in the
pages of such pagan writers as Plato, 4 Sophocles, 5
and Cicero. 6
The primary truths, relations, and actions which this
standard of conduct describes and prescribes have
always been in some degree understood by the majority
of mankind. While the natural moral law is correctly
said to be written in the human heart, it is not displayed
in flaming head-lines. Its primary and most essential
provisions are intuitive to the human mind, just as are
the elementary propositions of mathematics. Anything
like a complete comprehension of its principles, applica-
tions, and conclusions can be attained only after con-
siderable study, by trained intellects, in an enlightened
The differences which have existed and still exist in
the moral notions and practices of various peoples and
classes prove nothing against the immutability of the
law itself. Man's conception of the law is one thing;
the law itself is quite another thing. Just as the race
varies and grows in its comprehension of speculative and
physical truths, so it makes progress in its perception
of ethical truths and principles. Ethical evolution is
undeniable ; but it affects man's knowledge of the law,
not the structure and content of the law. That indi-
viduals and nations have changed their moral estimate
1 Rom. ii. 14, 15. 4 "The Republic," iv.
'"Ecclesiastical Polity," I, passim. 6 "Antigone," v, 446-460.
* " Moralphilosophie." " Pro Milone," iv, 10.
SOCIALISM AND MORALITY 147
of certain practices for example, slavery no more
indicates a variation in the objective moral law than
an improved knowledge of disease and its treatment
implies a change in the fundamental laws of hygiene.
That men for a long time failed to perceive or recognize
certain moral precepts, does not demonstrate the non-
existence of the latter, any more than the universal
ignorance of the heliocentric theory proves that the
earth first began to travel round the sun in the days of
The first specific doctrine of Socialist ethics is that
the science has nothing to do with the purely self-
regarding actions of the individual. Ethics deals only
with man's social relations.
If purely individual conduct is outside the scope of the
moral law, then it follows with absolute logical rigour
that the rational part of man is not essentially superior
to his animal nature, that soul is not intrinsically nobler
than sense, that man has no more duties to himself
than has a pig, that, so long as he does not injure his
neighbours, he is morally free to live like a pig, and that
his personality is not a sacred thing which he is morally
obliged to develop, and which his fellows are under
moral compulsion to respect. Lacking moral (as dis-
tinguished from intellectual, physical, and aesthetic)
value, the human individual has no more intrinsic worth
and dignity than a chimpanzee. And society does him
no moral wrong when it treats him accordingly.
According to the Christian and Theistic conception,
all conduct, whether pertaining to self, the neighbour, or
God, falls within the sphere of the moral law. When a
148 SOCIALISM: PROMISE OR MENACE
man destroys his energies and shortens his life by dis-
sipation, even though he thus injures no one but him-
self, he violates the moral law quite as definitely as when
he steals or kills. To tell a man that actions of the former
kind are devoid of ethical quality, is to assure him that
he has no genuine obligation to avoid them. It assures
him that no moral stigma attaches to the most degrad-
ing acts of personal impurity, gluttony, or bestiality.
Conduct of this kind becomes as free from moral blame
or guilt as the process of digestion. Socialists may shrink
from this ugly conclusion, but only by throwing logic
If only those actions which are injurious to the neigh-
bour or to society can be called immoral, all unions and
relations between the sexes which are not followed by
offspring are without moral aspects. They are neither
good nor bad. In such cases, says Belford Bax, the
sexual act "does not concern morality at all. It is a
question simply of individual taste." * The same con-
clusion is drawn by Bebel: "The gratification of the
sexual impulse is as strictly the personal affair of the
individual as the gratification of every other natural
Again, the theory of economic determinism logically
requires a new form of domestic society under Socialism.
If the methods of production and exchange determine
the character of all non-economic institutions, and if
the present monogamous family is the necessary out-
come of the present economic arrangements, the entirely
different economic scheme provided under Socialism will
1 " Ethics of Socialism," p. 126.
2 "Woman," p. 154; San Francisco, 1897.
SOCIALISM AND MORALITY 149
necessarily bring with it a different kind of family. All
the logical and courageous Socialists who have dealt
with the subject accept this conclusion.
Engels writes thus: "With the transformation of the
means of production into collective property, the monog-
amous family ceases to be the economic unit of society.
. . . The indissolubility of marriage is partly the con-
sequence of the economic conditions under which
monogamy arose, partly tradition from the time when
the connection between the economic situation and
monogamy, not yet fully understood, was carried to
extremes by religion. To-day it has been perforated a
hundred times. If marriage founded on love alone is
moral, then it follows that marriage is moral only as long
as love lasts. The duration of an attack of individual
sex love varies considerably according to individual
disposition, especially in men. A positive cessation
of sex fondness, or its replacement by a new passionate
love, makes separation a blessing for both parties and
In the preface to the volume from which these ex-
tracts are taken, Engels intimates that his view of the
family is likewise that of Marx.
Forecasting the position of woman under Socialism,
Bebel declares :
"In the choice of love she is free, just as man is free.
She wooes and is wooed, and has no other inducement
to bind herself than her own free will. The contract
between the two lovers is of a private nature as in primi-
tive times, without the intervention of any functionary.
. . . Should incompatibility, disappointment, and dis-
1 "The Origin of the Family," pp. 91, 99; Chicago, 1902.
150 SOCIALISM: PROMISE OR MENACE
like ensue, morality demands the dissolution of a tie
that has become unnatural, and therefore immoral." *
The foregoing passages were written about thirty
years ago. Kautsky, the ablest and most authoritative
living Socialist, gave expression to the following senti-
ments as late as 1906 :
"The same phenomenon, say, of free sexual inter-
course or of indifference to property, can in one case be
the product of moral depravity in a society where strict
monogamy and the sanctity of property are recognized
as necessary ; in another case it can be the highly moral
product of a healthy social organism which requires for
its social needs neither property in a particular woman,
nor property in a particular means of consumption and
Similar views are defended by Morris and Bax, 3
Edward Carpenter, 4 Ernest Untermann, 5 Charles H.
Kerr, 6 and many others among the lesser lights of the
These pestiferous notions concerning the institution
of the family continue to be widely diffused through
Socialist books, Socialist publishing houses, and Socialist
authorities of every description; nor have they ever
been repudiated by any significant number of prominent
Socialists. In these circumstances it seems not unfair
1 "Woman," p. 154.
J " Ethics and the Materialist Conception of History," pp. 193, 194;
3 "Growth and Outcome of Socialism," pp. 299, 300; New York,
4 "Love's Coming of Age," p. 67 ; New York, 1911.
8 Preface to "The Origin of the Family," p. 7.
"The Folly of Being Good," p. 23.
SOCIALISM AND MORALITY 151
to say that marital unions dissoluble at the will of the
parties is the approved Socialist doctrine.
In any case, the views in question are so generally
circulated and accepted within the movement that no
intelligent Catholic, Protestant, Jew, or other believer
in the traditional marriage is justified .in giving aid or
countenance to present-day Socialism.
As a natural corollary to their doctrine of "marriage
for love," Socialists subscribe more or less generally and
definitely to the theory that the child belongs to the
State. Hence their demand for State monopoly of edu-
cation. The most authoritative of all the Socialist
platforms, the "Erfurter Program," demands "seculari-
zation of the schools; compulsory education in the
public schools." While this demand was addressed to
the present "capitalist" State, its objects would un-
doubtedly be quite as warmly desired by the Socialists
when they had established the Collectivist Common-
wealth. Even that plausible and persuasive com-
promiser, John Spargo, is of opinion that the Socialist
regime would probably not tolerate private elementary
schools, nor permit religious teaching in any kind of
schools, "up to a certain age." *
The rearing of children, especially those of dissolved
"love" unions, would become to a much greater extent
than to-day the business of the State. While a Socialist
industrial order might conceivably require all parents to
provide for the future of their young children by some
kind of insurance, the current thought of the movement
seems to contemplate no such arrangement.
1 " Socialism," p. 238; New York, 1906.
152 SOCIALISM: PROMISE OR MENACE
Socialists expect that their proposed reorganization of
society will bring about a condition of general happiness.
This is the ideal that they desire to realize. It is also,
in their view, the guide and law for present-day conduct.
"All factors that impede the path to its approximate
realization are anti-ethical and immoral; contrariwise,
all factors and movements which tend in its direction are
In passing, I would observe that this statement looks
very much like an attempt to formulate a universal
ethical law. The task of reconciling it with his general
denial of universality to moral rules, I shall leave to the
ingenuity of my opponent. The really important point
about this rule of conduct is its logical soundness from
the viewpoint of the practical aims of Socialism. If the
Socialist reconstruction of things be the supreme goal of
humanity, all existing actions ought to be subordinated
and directed to the furtherance of those causes and
movements which make for the Collectivist Common-
Hence all persons except the capitalists and their
allies will adopt this as the supreme standard of conduct.
"As fast as they become class conscious, they will
recognize and praise as moral all conduct that tends to
hasten the social revolution, and they will condemn as
unhesitatingly immoral all conduct that tends to pro-
long the dominance of the capitalist class." 2
Consider this gem from the pen of the usually mild
and soft-spoken John Spargo :
l Hillquit, "Socialism in Theory and Practice," pp. 59, 60.
'La Monte, "Socialism, Positive and Negative," p. 64; Chicago,
SOCIALISM AND MORALITY 153
"If the class to which I belong could be set free from
exploitation by violation of the laws made by the master
class, by open rebellion, by seizing the property of the
rich, by setting the torch to a few buildings, or by sum-
mary execution of a few members of the possessing
class, I hope that the courage to share in the work should
be mine." 1
To promote the advent of the Socialist State is, there-
fore, according to the current Socialist view, the final
end of conduct and the ultimate determinant of morality.
All actions that contribute to the overthrow of Capital-
ism and the establishment of collectivism are reasonable
and good. The grossest deeds of violence against per-
sons and property, the crudest confiscation of capitalist
goods, are morally justified if they are really conducive
to this end. While the majority of Socialist leaders
apparently condemn the destructive methods of Syn-
dicalism, they are not actuated by moral principles, but
by considerations of expediency.
I do not recall having read a single Socialist condem-
nation of such practices on the ground that they are
Against this restatement of the ethics of savagery the
Christian and the Theist proclaim the everlasting truth
that life and property are morally inviolable. Whatever
economic changes are necessary (and they are many and
various) must be effected by orderly processes which
will respect the right of ownership as well as other kinds
The theory that social welfare is the determinant of
morality would be fatal to the rights and welfare of the
1 "Syndicalism, Industrial Unionism, and Socialism," pp. 172, 173.
154 SOCIALISM: PROMISE OR MENACE
individual. At no given time is the well-being of the
State identical with the well-being of all its members.
Hence the Socialist Commonwealth might quite con-
sistently and expediently kill off the feeble-minded, the
physically incurable, and all persons who did not pro-
duce their keep.
The minority would have no rights that the majority
would feel morally bound to respect.
II. IF THIS BE IMMORALITY
BY MORRIS HILLQUIT
Socialists generally accept the definition of Ethics as
the art or science of right conduct of men toward their
fellow-men. This conception is by no means peculiar
to them. Practically all authoritative modern writers
agree that ethical or moral conduct must have a social
In this view the highest moral conduct on the part of
man is that which is most conducive to the general
happiness and welfare of the community, and, con-
versely, the highest moral conduct on the part of the
community is such as is most conducive to the happi-
ness and welfare of each and every individual member
of it. There is nothing new or startling in this doctrine.
It is merely the more modern and scientific formulation
of the Golden Rule Do unto others as you would have
them do unto you.
This great moral ideal has never been generally
attained for the reason that the existing social and eco-
nomic conditions have made it impossible of full realiza-
SOCIALISM AND MORALITY 155
All history of mankind up to the present has been
tainted with national and class struggles. In the con-
stant endeavour to secure their material existence, to
enhance their wealth and resources, and to increase their
domain, the nations of the world have always been in a
state of intermittent war with one another. The ma-
terial interests which prompted this strife and warfare
were, as usual, spontaneously translated into ethical
notions, and each nation accordingly developed a dual
standard of morality, one applicable to its own mem-
bers, and the other, diametrically opposed to it, to
Thus while every civilized nation abhors crimes against
the person or property of its own members and brands
them as revoltingly immoral, it glorifies murder, pillage,
and many unspeakable crimes if committed on members
of other nations as acts of warfare.
And just as the material needs of the contending
nations determine the code of international ethics, so do
the material exigencies of each nation within its own
domain determine its national code of ethics.
Let us illustrate that theory by an analysis of the
prevailing or "capitalist" morality.
In modern society each individual is sent out into the
world to secure his existence, not in cooperation, but in
competition, in war with his fellow-men. The prime
task of "making a living" naturally and necessarily
degenerates into the ambition to "make money." The
amount of wealth accumulated by the individual is the
generally accepted measure of his "success in life."
The "pauper" is an object of social contempt, and the
millionnaire invariably has the esteem and obsequious
156 SOCIALISM: PROMISE OR MENACE
veneration of his fellow-citizens, who rarely stop to in-
quire into the origin or social significance of his acquired
wealth. Practically everything is permissible and even
praiseworthy so long as it makes money.
Thus we abhor murder in all its forms in the
abstract; but when our factory, mine, or mill owners
daily undermine the health and shorten the lives of
tender-aged children by overwork and pestilential sur-
roundings, or permit the killing of employees by prevent-
able accidents, in the ordinary and "legitimate" course
of their business, we are not inclined to attach the
slightest moral stigma to their conduct.
The wretch who in the heat of passion would put
poison into another man's food is despised by the com-
munity as a cowardly assassin; but the wealthy manu-
facturer or dealer who systematically adulterates and
poisons foodstuffs and other articles intended for general
consumption, in the cold-blooded pursuit of profits, is a
perfectly respectable member of society.
No language can express the depth of the loathing and
execration with which we regard the white-slave trafficker
who lures or forces women into lives of shame for paltry
profits to himself; but the department-store owner,
who drives hundreds of poor struggling girls into lives of
prostitution by low pay, as a mere incident in his process
of fortune building, is often of the material of which are
made our church deacons and Sunday-school superin-
Socialists are not inclined to place the blame for these
perverse capitalist notions of ethics on the individual
"malefactors." As believers in the economic interpre-
tation of history they realize that ethical notions and the
SOCIALISM AND MORALITY 157