Morris Hillquit.

Socialism; promise or menace? online

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authorities. Mr. Hillquit, indeed, calls these expressions
"fragmentary utterances," but he probably will not
deny that they reflect adequately the mind of their
authors. Any reader who may be disposed to question
their value should consult the contexts from which they
have been taken.
1 See "The Larger Aspects of Socialism," by W. E. Walling, p. 389.


My opponent introduces an elaborate but wholly un-
necessary discussion of the different meanings of religion
and its cognate terms, Christianity and Church. I
never denied that the Socialist philosophy is compatible
with what he calls "idealistic religion," which may mean
merely "an ethical principle," "a philosophical system,"
or even "Socialism itself" ! Throughout the discussion
I have, quite obviously, employed the term religion
in its ordinary and easily understood sense: belief in
and submission to a personal God, the Creator and Moral
Ruler of the Universe. To religion in this proper ac-
ceptation, and not in the sense of some colourless ideal, I
have maintained, and still maintain, that the Socialist
movement is antagonistic.

The two paragraphs which my opponent quotes from
a book by the Reverend J. A. Dewe, to prove that this
excellent and able priest does not find the theory of
economic determinism incompatible with his Christian
beliefs, are not at all to the point. Father Dewe merely
says that economic factors exercise "almost unbounded
influence on human conduct," and have been "the most
constant and most pervasive causes" of events in the
particular field of politics. Neither of these statements
is equivalent to the assertion that economic factors ulti-
mately determine all social conduct, conditions, institu-
tions, and beliefs, or that such non-economic factors
as religion, ethics, law, etc., are merely derived and
instrumental causes of social events and changes. This
is economic determinism as described by my opponent
in his paper on Socialist Philosophy. This, and nothing
less than this, is economic determinism as understood
by orthodox Socialists.


Father Dewe does not deny the original and inde-
pendent activity and causality of religious and ethical
factors, nor the existence of the distinct spiritual entity
called the soul. Therefore, he is not correctly classed
as a believer in the Socialist theory of economic deter-
minism. Indeed, if allowance be made for his some-
what imprecise and hyperbolic language, his view of
economic causality does not differ substantially from
mine, as stated more than once in the last two chapters.
Yet my opponent has not honoured me with a place
among the adherents of economic determinism.

After all, it seems that Mr. Hillquit has been merely
exercising his dialectic skill and indulging his sense of
humour; for he immediately faces about, and admits
substantially that my position is correct. Here are his
own words: "Still I am inclined to believe that the
majority of Socialists find it difficult, if not impossible,
to reconcile their general philosophic views with the
doctrines and practices of dogmatic religious creeds."
In the interest of strict accuracy, I should like to amend
this sentence by introducing the word "vast" before the
word "majority."

According to my opponent, the irreligion of the
Socialist is not greater than that of the person who
"accepts the conclusions of modern science"; conse-
quently, it is not due specifically to the Marxian philos-

I repeat that genuine science is not in opposition to
religion, to orthodox, dogmatic religion. By science I
mean the group of natural, empirical disciplines, such as
chemistry, biology, physics, physiology, experimental


psychology, astronomy, geology. When we inquire
whether science, thus understood, is consistent with
religion, we may have in mind either the principles and
conclusions of science, or the religious attitude of the

Inasmuch as science deals only with those facts that
come under the observation of the senses, and with the
uniformities or laws which are disclosed by such obser-
vation, it cannot as such know anything of or assume any
attitude toward ultimate causes or suprasensible reali-
ties. The latter lie entirely beyond the field of science,
and constitute the province of philosophy and theology.
From the very nature of the situation it is evident that
there can be no conflict between religion and science
objectively considered.

Nevertheless some scientists have gone beyond their
proper field, and have attempted to interpret as philoso-
phers the ultimate meaning of the phenomena that they
have observed and the laws that they have formulated.
They have speculated about God and immortality.
Have their opinions on these ultra-scientific problems
tended to support the assertion or assumption that the
scientists are irreligious?

The great majority of the ablest and most authorita-
tive men of science have found no inconsistency between
their scientific opinions and the principles of orthodox
religion. Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Galvani, Volta,
Ampere, Cuvier, Pasteur, Herschell, Maxwell, Dana,
Lessen, Mendel, Saint-Hilaire, Romanes, Kelvin, Vir-
chow, Wallace, Wundt, Lodge, and a host of others,
were or are believers in God and hi the theistic inter-
pretation of the universe. Among scientists of the first


rank, that is, the men who have made important dis-
coveries and enlarged the bounds of human knowledge,
the deniers of God constitute an extremely small minority.
Mr. Hillquit will find these statements supported by a
great mass of positive and detailed evidence in a book
recently published in London, entitled "Religious Belief
of Scientists," by Arthur H. Tabrun.

To be sure, the popularizers of science, the men who
have themselves investigated little and discovered noth-
ing, have been in a considerable proportion unbelievers.
Hence they have contrived to create the impression in
the superficial and uncritical part of the reading public
that religion and science are mutually opposed. But
they are not scientists, nor are their irreligious specula-
tions within the field of science.

Had my opponent merely declared that Socialist irre-
ligion was due in great part to the general irreligion and
scepticism of the last century and a half, he would have
been on safe ground. A very large proportion of So-
cialists had adopted the views of the atheistic popu-
larizers of science, and the opinions of other sceptical
writers, before they became Socialists. Once within the
movement, however, they found their previously acquired
irreligion quite in harmony with Socialist philosophy.
Hence the latter constitutes the main reason why the
average Socialist cannot be other than an agnostic or
an atheist, so long as he remains in the Socialist move-

Mr. Hillquit admits that the relations between the
average Socialist and the Church are "rather strained,"
but puts the blame for this entirely upon the latter. In


the attempt to substantiate this contention, he pro-
nounces a somewhat lengthy and virulent tirade against
the Church.

I shall refrain from a formal reply. First, because the
explanation of Socialist antagonism to the Church is
sufficiently obvious in Socialist antagonism to religion.
There is no need to look for an additional cause. Second,
because Mr. Hillquit correctly stated the policy upon
which we had agreed when he declared in his first paper
that "the Catholic Church is not at issue in this debate."
Third, because the space at my disposal is insufficient
for an adequate reply to a series of assertions which
cover nineteen centuries of history. Fourth, because
such a reply would be in one sense useless, and in another
sense superfluous. It would be useless as addressed to
prejudiced persons, and to all persons who are satisfied
with aprioristic history. It would be superfluous in the
eyes of all those readers who try to get their historical
views exclusively from a study of facts; for these will
realize that of the thirty-five sentences in my opponent's
attack, twenty-one are the direct reverse of the truth,
twelve are a caricature of the truth, and only two are
unadulterated truth.

The instances which Mr. Hillquit cites from the his-
tory of the German parliament prove nothing more
than that the Socialist party defended freedom of asso-
ciation in Germany. This was elementary prudence in a
country in which their own associational liberty was con-
stantly endangered by the government. It proves noth-
ing with regard to the general attitude of the Socialist
movement toward adequate and genuine religious free-


dom and religious toleration. "Separation of Church
and State" and "absolute religious liberty" are beautiful
shibboleths, but we desire to know just how they are
interpreted by the Socialists before we accept them as
guarantees of fundamental religious rights.

We know that they have been interpreted hi the
"Erfurt Programme" as excluding the right to main-
tain religious private schools. 1 We know that they were
interpreted by the Socialist groups in the French parlia-
ment as permitting militant assistance to the govern-
ment in its work of despoiling the Church, driving out
the religious congregations, and attempting to enslave
the Church by the odious "law of associations." We
know that there is not a country on the Continent in
whose parliament the Socialists have shown themselves
willing to allow the Church that measure of religious
freedom which she enjoys in the United States.

Mr. Hillquit is quite right in assuming that good
Catholics have no "misgivings about the fate of Chris-
tianity under a Socialist regime." Christianity has
survived much greater perils. However, that is no
reason for being indifferent to Socialism. All good
Americans know that we could subdue Mexico, but
sensible Americans do not contemplate with compla-
cency the prospect of a war with that country.

After all, the probable attitude of a Socialist regime
toward religion and religious liberty is a question of
quite minor importance. No such regime is going to

1 See Liebknecht's statements to this effect in the very paragraph
in which he declares that Socialism is not concerned with religion : "So-
cialism : What It Is and What It Seeks to Accomplish," p. 58.


be set up by any enlightened nation. What is of serious
consequence is the fact that the Socialist movement of
to-day is an active and far-reaching influence for the
spread of irreligion among large sections of the popula-
tion in many countries.

This is the phase of the situation which gives genuine
concern to all friends of religion.

When I suggested that Socialism purge itself of its
non-economic elements, I had no idea that the plan would
prove acceptable to my opponent. My only object in
offering it was to demonstrate the bad faith or the gross
ignorance of those members of the party who assert
that Socialism is a "purely economic system." Since
Mr. Hillquit refuses to countenance the elimination of a
single one of the philosophical, ethical, or religious doc-
trines and implications of the movement, he cannot
reasonably expect a discontinuance of opposition from
the Church. The doctrines in question do not lose their
pestiferous character merely because they are propagated
in connection with Socialism.

Obviously the Church cannot accept the "counter
suggestion" made by my opponent at the close of his
paper. In the first place, she cannot recede from posi-
tions which she does not occupy, such as "partnership
with the rich," and opposition to social betterment.
In the second place, the defence of religion and morality
against attacks made under the guise of "political and
class struggles" is a very important part of her legiti-
mate spiritual functions.

From Mr. Hillquit's own pages, then, it is abundantly
clear that Socialism and Christianity are irreconcilable.


In the name of truth and honesty, I thank him for his

About the outcome of this irrepressible conflict, the
Christian, at least the Catholic Christian, has no mis-
givings. If I may be pardoned for adapting the
hackneyed forecast of Macaulay, I would say that the
Church will still be flourishing when the last unregenerate
Marxian shall lift his melancholy countenance from the
dry and dusty volumes of "Das Kapital" to survey the
wreck of the "dialectic method," "economic determin-
ism," the "class struggle," "surplus value," and all
the other stage properties of the tragedy-comedy called



On one important point, at least, my opponent and
I seem to be in perfect accord. We agree that there is
little likelihood of a hearty understanding and active
cooperation between the Socialist movement and the
Catholic Church so long as both remain what they are.
And this is practically all that Karl Kautsky says in the
passage which I "neglected" to quote in my main
article, and which my opponent has so triumphantly
resuscitated in his rejoinder.

Dr. Ryan's efforts to explain away Father Dewe's
views on the laws of historical development seem to me
as unnecessary as they are unsuccessful. The distin-
guished Catholic divine accepts the theory of economic
determinism without reserve or quibble, and says so as
clearly and plainly as the English language can make it.


Moreover, Dr. Dewe is more consistent in the accept-
ance of the theory than Dr. Ryan is in his opposition
to it.

For, after all, why should a good Catholic consider
the belief in economic determinism incompatible with
the orthodox creed of his church ? In the preceding
chapter Dr. Ryan contended with much emphasis
that the moral laws 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." In other words, my opponent's
contention is that God does not rule the universe from
day to day by direct, arbitrary, and changing methods,
but that He has laid down certain permanent and im-
mutable rules which govern life and existence and which,
when discovered, constitute the "laws" of science. If
this theory be true, why does it exclude a divinely
ordained and universally valid rule of social and historic
development ?

If the law of gravitation, discovered by Newton, is
the rule by which God directs the movements of the
planets, and the process of natural selection, discovered
by Darwin, is the rule by which He directs biological
development, why may not the law of economic deter-
minism, discovered by Marx, be the rule by which He
directs the course of social progress? If the purely
mechanical conceptions of the operation of gravitation
and natural selection leave room for the belief in a per-
sonal Creator and Ruler of the universe, why not the
theory of economic determinism? It seems to me the
distinction is quite arbitrary and illogical.


Nor is my opponent happier in the selection of his
arguments to support the alleged harmony between
modern science and dogmatic theology.

Dr. Ryan names twenty illustrious men of science,
beginning with Copernicus and Galileo and ending with
Wallace, Wundt, and Lodge, and claims that they
"have found no inconsistency between their scientific
opinions and the principles of orthodox religion." My
opponent would find it a somewhat difficult task to prove
that the religious opinions of any considerable number
of the men named by him were "orthodox" within his
own definition of that term. But assuming that they
were, the fact would prove as little in favour of Dr.
Ryan's contention as a list of irreligious scientists would
disprove it. The method of drawing general conclu-
sions from specific instances often leads to curious

Take the case of Alfred Russel Wallace. He was an
eminent scientist and a believer in God. Dr. Ryan
therefore considers his case one of those that go to prove
the alleged harmony between science and religion. But
Wallace was also an outspoken and enthusiastic Socialist.
Would my opponent consider this fact as tending to
prove that Socialism is both scientific and religious ?

But the more serious flaw in the argument lies in its
utter one-sidedness. To establish the alleged harmony
between science and orthodox belief, it is not enough to
show the inclinations of men of science toward religion ;
it is also necessary to prove a friendly attitude of the
Church toward scientific truths and their discoverers
and exponents. It takes two to make an agreement.

And here is where my opponent's difficulty becomes


unsurmountable. The history of the Church is one of
undying hostility to, and relentless persecution of all
scientific progress.

Nicholas Copernicus, who heads Dr. Ryan's list of
religious scientists, made the great discovery that the
earth revolves about the sun, in the early years of the
sixteenth century. Yet his fear of theological persecu-
tion was so strong that for more than thirty years he
did not dare to publish his discovery. His work on
"The Revolutions of the Heavenly Bodies" was printed
in 1543, and a copy of the book was put into the hands
of the great scientist as he lay on his deathbed. That
the fears of Copernicus were well founded was amply
demonstrated by subsequent events.

The first great popularizer of the Copernican system,
the original thinker and philosopher, Giordano Bruno,
was held in prison by the Roman inquisition for two
years, and was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1600.
Galileo Galilei, one of the most powerful minds of his
time, who corroborated and perfected the discovery of
Copernicus by telescopic observations, was harassed by
clerical opposition in all his works. Twice he was sum-
moned before the tribunal of the Roman inquisition,
and in his seventieth year the feeble and broken-down
savant, under threats of inquisitorial tortures, was forced
upon his knees to publicly "abjure, curse, and detest
the heresy of the movement of the earth." Nor did the
persecution of Galileo end with his death. The clergy
did not permit his body to be buried in his family tomb
or a monument to be erected in his memory. In 1616
the Church prohibited " all books which affirm the motion
of the earth."


The works of Kepler, Descartes, Newton, and Saint-
Hilaire were viciously attacked by the Church, and as
late as the middle of the eighteenth century the great
French naturalist, George Buffon, who was the first to
lay a scientific foundation for modern geology, was com-
pelled by the theological faculty of the Sorbonne to
recant: "I abandon everything in my book respecting
the formation of the earth, and generally all which may
be contrary to the narrative of Moses."

When the epoch-making discoveries of Darwin were
published they shared the fate of all earlier scientific
achievements. Cardinal Manning voiced the senti-
ments of the Catholic Church when he characterized
Darwinism as a "brutal philosophy, to wit, there is no
God, and the ape is our Adam," just as Bishop Wilber-
force spoke for the Protestant Church when he rejected
the new theory as a "tendency to limit God's glory in
creation." Pope Pius IX emphatically condemned the
Darwinian theory as a heretic "aberration."

When the compelling force of scientific truth ulti-
mately broke down the thick walls of clerical opposition
and the new discoveries established themselves definitely
and ineradicably in the minds of men, the Church had
to abandon the Canutian task of forcing the rising tide
back into the river in each instance. In 1757 the decree
"against the motion of the earth" was formally annulled
by the papal court, and to-day even Darwinism is
freed from the ban of the Church.

But the Church learns nothing from the past, and
continues to meet every new advance in science with
stern rebuke. If it is no more the "infidel" Copernican
or Darwinian against whom it is arrayed, it is the


"agnostic" and "materialistic" Marxian who is made
the target of its attacks.

Dr. Ryan concludes his rejoinder with a clever para-
phrase of a passage from Macaulay in which he predicts
the triumphal survival of the Church and the speedy
oblivion of the heresies of the Marxian philosophy.
Such pious forecasts were made by my opponent's pred-
ecessors with reference to the heliocentric theory in the
days of Copernicus, Bruno, and Galileo, and with refer-
ence to the theory of natural selection in the days of
Darwin, Huxley, and Wallace. What assurance does
he have that his joyous predictions about the fate of
Marxian Socialism will be treated with greater respect
by history, the court of last resort of all theories and
movements ?



THE main points of the debate between Dr. Ryan and
myself have been fully disposed of in the preceding chap-
ters, and it would be quite unprofitable to reopen the
discussion at this time. Our present task, as I see it,
is merely to gather up some of the loose ends and to
draw our conclusions.

Dr. Ryan has proved himself an opponent of excep-
tional erudition and skill, and I take great pleasure in
expressing my sincere appreciation of the fair and cour-
teous manner in which he has treated his side of the com-
plex and contentious subject.

But in looking over the preceding pages I cannot help
feeling that the erudition and broad-minded attitude
of my opponent have been the main source of his weak-
ness. In a debate against Socialism the conservative
standpatter is placed in a position of advantage over the
liberal critic. He stubbornly shuts his eyes to the con-
ditions and tendencies of life around him; he stoutly
maintains that everything is perfect in this, the best of
all worlds, and that the call for change and improvement
is nothing but the senseless cry of the demagogue. He
flies in the face of all known facts ; he is brutal and ab-
surd, but he is always logical from his premises. The



non-Socialist progressive, on the other hand, is more
plausible, but less consistent. He is bound to make
concessions; he is bound to stop short of a complete
admission, and he struggles vainly for a logical halting-
It was thus with my opponent.


To my indictment of the prevailing industrial order,
Dr. Ryan makes only a partial and half-hearted de-
fence. He admits that the present industrial system
is "in many of its elements far, very far, from satisfac-
tory or tolerable " ; J that modern society has failed
"to take advantage of the available forces of improve-
ment"; that "the position and livelihood of large sec-
tions of the working population are less secure under the
existing arrangements" than in the past; that it is
"largely true" that the present economic order pits
producer against consumer, tenant against landlord,
and worker against employer, and that our social order
suffers from many other serious defects.

The only fault he finds with the formulation of my
charges against present society is that they are "over-
stated." He contends that conditions are not "nearly
so terrible" as they appear to me. Now it is of no con-
sequence whether the admitted evil outgrowths of Cap-
italism are quite as "terrible" as they appear to me or
merely "unsatisfactory and intolerable " as they seem to
my opponent. Our individual feeling toward social
misery counts for little. The all-important fact is that

1 The italics are mine.


it exists, and the inevitable conclusion is that it must be

Dr. Ryan admits the fact and accepts the conclusion.

"That the majority of the wage-earners should, in a
country as rich as America, possess no income-bearing
property, have no ownership in the means of production,
is a gross anomaly," he exclaims. "It is not normal,
and it cannot be permanent. No nation can endure
as a nation predominantly of hired men."

My opponent urges that the existing social system be
"greatly, even radically, amended." So, of course, do
the Socialists.

The ultimate remedy of Socialism is the abrogation of
private ownership in the social tools of work. The

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