R. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) Ensor.

Modern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; online

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Online LibraryR. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) EnsorModern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; → online text (page 28 of 35)
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weeks, m.onths, years of saving and suffering, or else the
struggle is lost before it begins ; and, later, when the crisis
comes, there is possibly but half a victory, possibly a defeat ;
and if, favoured as one may be by the unparalleled prosperity
of industry hitherto, one may by a sufficiently strong trade-
union, and by the cohesion of the members of the trade-union,
snatch some advantages from the employers, yet at the very
first crisis we risk the loss of all we have gained.

You must not misunderstand me. I don't want here to
run down trade-unions ; I am a trade-union maker. I do not


wish to put despair into the souls of those who take part in
the trade-union movement. Far be it from me. But I wish
to speak of things as they are and as I know them. With
friendly societies and trade-unions, their future is always at the
mercy of their financial position ; how, then, can these friendly
societies and trade-unions, which have to stand such severe
struggles, put aside funds to build large premises, large rooms
for recreation, for all the necessary organizations, and for the
Socialist education which the working-class needs, to attain
the end towards which it marches? Whereas, when you create
a co-operative society like your "Avenir de Plaisance," for
example, in any quarter, it is not necessary that the majority
of the people in that quarter should become members in
order that the society shall succeed. Let us suppose that we
are in la city like Paris, where there are 600,000 workmen.
One could create a co-operative society in a quarter with
6000 workmen, even with 1000, which, if well administered,
gives immediate advantages : the workmen at once receive
money, after the first six or twelve months, and their wives
receive with them — their wives, that is to say, the other half,
the most backward half, of our movement, the part of the
working-class most dominated by priest and capitalist. And
this you count as nothing? To find a means of organization
which, instead of frightening the women, instead of alienating
them, attracts them, reconciles them with your opinion, your
ideal, your party, you count that as nothing? I look upon it
as more than the half, because woman is, in fact, for man,
more than the half.

Trade-unions and friendly societies cannot build large pre-
mises, it is the exception ; but larger co-operative societies,
Through like the Ghent " Vooruit," the Brussels " Maison

Co-operation ^^ Peuple," or the Paris " Avenir de Plaisance "

Socialism ^ '

can envelop and * ' EgaHtaire," can easily do so; and if they

life o?the ^^^^^ ^^^^ managers, they can build their premises,
workers. as, for example, has been done with the " Avenir
de Plaisance," like the ancient churches, where side by


side the praises of God were sung and the butcher and the
grocer trafficked. They can put the ahar in the middle of the
grocery-shop ; and thus the complete union of Socialism and
Co-operation is really achieved. Understand me; later, as
things progress, that must change. The temple must not be
in the grocery-shop, but outside ; and between the two there
must be assembly-rooms for the trade-unions, large reading-
rooms for every one, and libraries. We require more ; we
require Co-operation, as we regard it, to be like the Roman
Church. It must lay hold of its man as soon as he comes
into the world, and say, " Welcome, little one ; " then lead him
on to the end of his life, till the moment when he leaves it for
ever. From the cradle to the grave Co-operation and Socialism
must never leave him. All his material, his moral, and his
intellectual needs, his needs as a man, or hers as a woman,
this new church of the proletariate must supply in full ; that
the child of the people may be dedicated from his mother's
womb to the sole defence of interests which are his own.
To-day we have the great misfortune of being nearly all our
lives in the hands of those whose interests are opposed to the
interests of our class. Suppose I am born a workman — my
father a miner, a tailor, an artisan, or an agricultural labourer.
Scarcely have I left my mother's breast when I am sent to the
creche — established that my mother may go working, and sweat
to supplement my father's too low wage — established that the
whole of the working-class family may be exploited for the
gain of the capitalist family. From the creche I go to the school,
whose programmes have been drawn up by the hostile class,
not to make a man of me, but to knead my brains as a baker
kneads his dough, to make a slave of me. From the school I
go to the workshop, where my whole mind, my whole producing
strength, is let and sold down to my last drop of sweat to the
class which is living upon my class. At twenty I leave the
workshop, and they send me to the barracks, that some
day I may die on a battlefield for thrones which are not


That must be changed (A voice : " Let us hope so "). I do

hope so. And why am I calm and hopeful ? Because, you see,

Co-opera- there we are, in poor manufacturing towns with

tion enables wages of black bread, workers of the great, the

the Socialist .,,,.. , ,, • , , ,

to be middle-sized, or the small industry, and we know

patient. well enough, that if the whole mass of workers is

not yet conscious of its rights and its duties, and has not the
indispensable managing capacity to direct production and
exchange, to rule the world, to eliminate wholly the ruling
class and put our own in its place, that vast task of transform-
ing the workers' minds will take a long time. And then, like
all men or bodies of men who have given themselves heart and
soul to a great cause, we have the virtues indispensable for pre-
serving our enthusiasm — patience and faith. I am not ashamed
to say I am patient. Things do not move so quickly in this
world. I know we want patience; I have patience ; I have grown
up in the patience that misery has forced upon me. The
patience, which the bourgeoisie has given to me, I keep for our
battle against it and for our future victory. The world must
be ours — we workers with brain or with hand ; and we say to
the bourgeois, " You shall labour, or there shall be no room,
for you." They talk of revolution ; we are not such radical
revolutionaries. We want but to change one word, one single
qualifying one ; to change the system of the bourgeoisie into
the system of the workers. That is all we want to do. And
you cry out at a single word ! Yes, we want the system of the
workers — those who labour put in the place of those who are
paid but do not labour. Our demand is as plain as *' Good-
morning ; " it is that in all factories and farms, on every ship,
in every management, it should everywhere be the workers
who through their delegates give the orders, the workers
who make the law of nations and the law of workshops.
For our attaining that, bless Co-operation. For the more I
think of it, the more I see that Co-operation is forwarding
the long-Iooked-for hour, when the kingdom of Socialism shall


See to-day : a church in every village, the people nowhere.
There is a priest inside every church, but very often there is
no school opposite. Well, beside every church, in every
village, and in the quarters of the large towns, must rise a
House of the People.^ I should like to show our friends the
anti-co-operative Socialists of France, who give it us so often
and so hard, I should like to show them in prospect the photo-
graphs of all those Houses of the People in the thousands
and thousands of French villages. Do you know what would
happen ? There would be no more contentions ; they would
fall into each other's arms, ready to do battle once more. We
saw that in Belgium. Yes, at Ghent, a town with 165,000
inhabitants, we have five large premises. There are, I believe,
twenty-five Catholic churches. And opposite them already,
since 1873, five Socialist churches. In twenty-seven years
(the Catholics have been there centuries) we have done that.
You see, we shall soon catch them up.

Would it not be admirable to have in every quarter of
Paris a beautiful large House of the People ; and one, too, in
every commune in every department of France? Thepossi-
You would depend no longer on a cafe-keeper, on biiiues
a proprietor, who thinks the right of lording it through ^
exists in every constitution, because his right of "Houses of
property suppresses all rights and all constitutions. ^ ^°^ ®'
Would it not be fine to organize in every co-operative society
workmen's education — a trade school for workmen, a trade
school preparing the managers of production, distribution,
and exchange in the future, when the bourgeois management
of to-day shall have disappeared? And what excellent
results will be obtained in Houses of the People, where every
hour, every minute, every second, all the vices and weaknesses
of the poor are driven out, as some day all their enemies shall
be. War on alcohol ! War on the spiritlessness of our own
class ! War on all that makes us less good, less great, less

' The name given by the Belgian Socialists to their co-operative estab-


human, that robust virtues may grow in the heart and head of
every man and every woman.

Yet another thing must be looked for from these trade
schools. I will explain. Working for a master is sometimes
very difficult, especially to satisfy him, because he
towork^" stipulates for so many things. You remember
without a Figaro's saying: "For the virtues which masters
require in a servant, very few masters would be
worthy of being one." Working for a master, then, is difficult
But for many workmen working without a master is still more
difficult ; and that is what we must teach the workers — how to
work without a master. That is one of the reasons why in
many trades co-operative production cannot succeed ; that is
what we must get the proletarians to learn — to master them-
selves, to work of themselves, without having forced on them
the will of an authority.

What I am going on to say will, perhaps, draw down an
uproar on my head. I shall say it all the same. I say there
must be order in industry, order in the factory, discipline in
labour ; the labourers must know that it is their duty to push
on the production of all for the gain of all. If only every one
had a character of intellectual and moral strength, strongly
equipped with professional skill and abounding in energy !
But find me such a rare bird. Find the manager who can be
employed in a productive co-operative society. Moral qualities
and knowledge of the trade are his only means of influence
there. Find me this paragon of a manager, and find a hundred
of them combining all the superior qualities which make a
man superior in his own place, which make him one of the
smiths who shall hammer out the new world. Find me that
in every village, every quarter, every trade. Alas, no ; the
working- class, we must say it out loud, has not yet reached
that point as regards either personal qualities, technical know-
ledge, or professional knowledge of trades. That is why the
distributive co-operative societies, which help to form and
support the productive ones, are of immense benefit and


service to the working-class education, which should impel
the worker to work for himself, without a master and without
fear. That is the great practical end of distributive co-opera-
tion and of productive co-operation.

And now they keep saying to us, " You will fail." That
depends on what you are asking for. If you think I want by

distributive and productive co-operation to solve ,.
, . , . ... _ Limits to

the social question, you are strangely mistaken. I possibilities

know, my friends the anti-co-o])erative Socialists of Co-opera-
,, .. ^ ,, riixt tion alone,

(who gives it us so often and so cheeriuUy), that

the co-operative societies will in vain realize all imagined
advantages ; they will never have enough capital to buy out the
whole fortune of the capitalists of to-day, to-morrow, and the
day after. I know as well as you that the complete emanci-
pation of the toilers is only possible by the e.xpropriation
(qualified or unqualified — peaceful or violent — with or without
compensation) of all the means of production and exchange.
I know all that. But it is irrelevant. Will your trade-unions
alone conduct you to this end ? Will your political party alone^
without trade-unions or friendly societies, do so ?
The real question is : Do Co-operation allied with vantage of

Socialism and Socialism allied with Co-operation combining

, . , , . , , '. , - . methods,

work for the hurt of the working-class or for its

victory ? To that question I answer, " Yes," fully and boldly.
"Yes, Co-operation is working for its victory." I say yes,
because in Belgium Co-operation and Socialism combined have
achieved wonders. I say yes, because there, where Co-opera-
tion is so strong, you may say regarding purity of principles
that the Belgian Labour party, to its honour, is as pure as the
purest Labour party in the world. I say yes, because there in
Belgium Co-operation does so well and presents no danger, and
because there is no reason why it should not do as well
amongst you.

I do not want, you know, to force my tactics on you.
Tactics depend on a thousand different conditions, which must
be carefully looked at. All the same, my method has caught


on in North France ; and it pays for propaganda work. How
would our comrades in the North get on without their co-opera-
tive societies, especially at election times ? I wish some day
one of our friends, the anti-co-operative Socialists, would be
present at one of our general meetings at Ghent. We had a
few weeks ago ten thousand strikers among us, thousands of
flax-spinners, and the carpenters' lock-out, and there was a
general meeting at the " Vooruit." I was then, as you are now,
sitting listening, and they were there in the hall, thousands
upon thousands. They said : "You know, there's the strike"
— "Yes, yes" — " That means money" — " Of course it means
money" — "The Society will give something" — "All you
want," was the reply ; " you have free course, you can use the
chest as largely as you wish, according to circumstances."
And after results like that, people come and say that Co-opera-
tion lessens the Socialist spirit, the class-consciousness, the
class-war, the spirit of revolution in the proletariate. How un-
true ! And it is the same at Brussels, the same at Jolimont, at
I^iege, at Bouvy ; go north, south, east, or west, you will every-
where see big bakeries topped by the red flag.

I am glad to be at Paris, this incomparable city, where I
have enjoyed visiting your rich exhibition ; but above all the
splendours I have seen something finer — I have seen Socialists
who, after a debate at the Co-operative Congress, have joined
hands, embraced, and united in the sacred cause of the prole-
tariate. That is finer than the exhibition. I saw when our friend
Leonard, of Charleroi, had shown all that Socialist Co-operation
in Belgium had achieved from the standpoint of our great
ideal, I saw when Jaures contributed the keen insight of his
deeply philosophic mind and the stirrings of his warm soul, — I
saw the entire hall rise like one man, every arm meeting, in
unity. Unity in the workers' cause ; unity for its triumph.

And now go to work, my co-operative friends. Men will
throw stones at you. Never mind ; they threw mud at me.
A shake, and it falls off you. I believe, I am sure, that you
are very much on the right road. Try to have practical


assemblies, family meetings like that which I have attended for
the past few days at Paris. Try to let these meetings of com-
rades shed the balm of brotherhood over the sore places of
recent disputes, that at last unity may be brought among you ;
and then the France of past ages will be once more what
she should be — the vanguard of the proletariate marching to
win the world.


By J. Keir Hardie, M.P.

These two articles illustrate the particular work in the Socialist
movement which Mr. Keir Hardie has especially done. That of
1894 seems worth reprinting, as showing the consistency with which
he has advocated a view which is now far commoner among work-
men than it was then.

J. Keir Hardie was born in Scotland of working-class parents.
He worked in the mines from his seventh to his twenty-fourth year,
and in 1880 became Secretary of the Lanarkshire Miners' Union. He
entered Parliament for West Ham in 1892, and in 1892-3 played
a chief part in the birth of the Independent Labour party. He was
defeated in West Ham in 1895, but in 1900 re-entered Parliament for
Merthyr Tydvil.

I. — Clearing the Way.
(Labour Leader, ]Vine 16, 1894.)

The question is frequently put to the Independent Labour
party, why don't you unite your forces with the Radical
party? It is pointed out that LL.P. — ism and Radicalism
should make common cause against Whiggism; and that
were this done, these two advanced sections would be
practically masters of the situation. On the face of it there
seems something to be said for this view of the matter. But
it is double-sided. At present Radicals win elections for
Liberalism, whereupon the Whig element in the party sets itself



to exploit Radicalism for all it is worth. When Liberal
Cabinets are being formed, the Whig party insists upon being
the dominant party therein. If the Radicals attempt to
dispute the supremacy of Whiggism, the Whigs threaten to go
over to the Tories, and thus place Liberalism in a hopeless
minority. This has gone on for a quarter of a century at least,
and, so far as we can see at present, will go on for a long time
again, unless something happens to bring it to an end. Now,
the Radical party wish to use Labour men, as the Whigs
hitherto have used the Radicals. The Whig cry to the Radicals
has been, " Join with us to beat the Tories," and the Radicals,
having accepted the invitation, found that they did the fighting,
whilst the Whigs raked in the spoils of victory. Were the
Independent Labour party to accept the invitations so plenti-
fully showered upon it by the Radical party, a similar state of
things would prevail. A much better way is that which the
Independent Labour party has adopted — to go straight on its
own course, gathering strength as it goes, until men who pose
as Radicals will be compelled to decide between Whiggism and
I.L.R— ism.

Besides, there is another aspect of the question. We are
asked to come into the Radical ranks, and we may use the
Radical party to further the objects we have in view. Much
has been said and written in defence of this method ; and it is
on this assumption that many men, who are as much in earnest
as the most advanced I.L.P. — er,'still remain within the ranks
of Liberalism. It does not seem to occur to those men that
two can play at the game of having a party. And whilst
they fondly believe that they are making use of Liberalism
in the interests of Labour, the managers of the Liberal party
are under the equally comfortable belief that they are using
Liberalism in the interests of themselves.

The struggle for supremacy between these two forces is
very unequal. The minds of the workers are so engrossed in
the struggle for a bare existence, that they have neither time
nor opportunity for cultivating the commercial instincts. They


have no wealth wherewith to hire cunning lawyers to scheme
and plan for them. They cannot offer posts of honour or
emoluments to those who are their friends. At best, all they
can say is, that those who are with them are serving humanity
by their devotion to principle. On the other hand, there is
wealth in abundance — ever to command all the unscrupulous-
ness which lays itself out for sale in the political as in the
commercial world. Men whose whole life has been applied
to develop their commercial instincts — cunning lawyers, versed
in the art of quibbling and making black appear white — social
position, and distinction as reward for those who serve the
party faithfully, and above and beyond all, a pecuniary interest
in preventing the people seeing that the private ownership of the
wealth possessed by the privileged class is at the root of every
social injustice. It is not difficult to foresee the outcome when
these two sections are endeavouring each to best the other.
And it makes one incredulous when one hears Labour men
boast that they are using, or are going to use. Liberalism to
achieve Labour reforms. The spectacle of a small community
of kids in the midst of a horde of wolves, comforting them-
selves with the belief that they were about to use the wolves
for their own advantage, would not be more absurd.

II. — Federated Labour as a New Factor in British

{North American Review, August, 1903.)

The Independent Labour party is a Socialist, and not, as its
title might seem to imply, a purely working-class organization.
It aims at the creation of a Co-operative Commonwealth,
founded upon the socialization of land and capital. Its methods
of realizing its objects are, to educate the community in the
principles of Socialism and to secure the return to Parliament
and to all elected bodies of members representative of its
principles. Since its formation in 1893, it has been regarded


as the stormy petrel of politics, and has kept itself well in
evidence mainly by running its own candidates and by
missionary zeal and activity. The actual paying membership
of the party is returned at 13,000, including a fair proportion
of the educated and well-to-do classes who see in Socialism the
only hope for solving the social problem. The yearly income\
of the party averages ;2£"25,ooo. As the bulk of this comes
from the wage-earning classes, and as the payments are purely
voluntary, this sum argues a considerable degree of sincerity.
In addition to the regular membership named above, the party
commands the active political support of that very large and
rapidly growing section of the community which has lost faith
in the Liberal party as an effective instrument of reform. The
energies of its members are tireless, and its political resources
are apparently inexhaustible. It is a standing illustration of
the truth of John Stuart Mill's axiom, that in politics one man
with convictions is equal to ninety-nine men who have only

Prior to 1893 there had been no sustained effort to create
a Labour party in Britain. In the early sixties the old
International Working Men's Association promised for a time
to become a power, but it went down under the Continental
influence by which it was dominated. During the seven
years ending 1874 there was great political activity among
trade-unionists, who were at that time endeavouring to secure
full legal recognition for their organizations. The effort
culminated with the running of seventeen Labour candidates at
the General Election in the year named and the defeat of the
Liberal party. The year following saw the passing of the
Bills which secured full recognition to the trade-union
movement ; and, the object aimed at having thus been
gained, the leaders of the movement lapsed back into the
ranks of their ordinary political allegiance, and there the matter

Nothing more was done until 1887, when the Labour
Electoral Association came into being. It succeeded in



existing, in struggling fashion, for a few short years, and then
collapsed, without leaving any indication of its ever having
been. At that time there was considerable ferment in the
Labour world, and the Labour Electoral Association, with its
half-hearted policy, alienated the support of the active spirits
by its feverish anxiety not to offend orthodox political opinion.

Somewhere about 1880, William Morris and H. M.
Hyndman commenced their Socialist propaganda; and the
Social Democratic Federation, modelled largely on the lines of
the German organization of that name, was formed, and for
a time enlisted in its ranks most of the men who have since
become powerful in connection with Labour politics. But it «
failed to hold them. William Morris withdrew and formed the
Socialist League, and John Burns and others of equal standing
left, owing to disagreement with the tactics which were

Online LibraryR. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) EnsorModern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; → online text (page 28 of 35)