Copyright
Robert Flint.

Socialism online

. (page 1 of 38)
Online LibraryRobert FlintSocialism → online text (page 1 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


THE LIBRARY
OF

THE UNIVERSITY

OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



-• -», ■, , .,,, -tt^-



■ ■'■ $" :


, ■ ;'■: _:;■


' . ■-' '•;


■^ ' ■'' '' '- -






:i<'^-.'5v'


'y'p, '




'-.;</■, ■ <






f



SOCIALISM



Works by the same Author



HISTORICAL PHILOSOPHY IN FRANCE
AND FRENCH BELGIUM AND
SWITZERLAND, 1894.

VICO (Blackwood's Philosophical Classics),

1884.

THEISM (Baird Lectures for 1876). 8th edition,
1893.

ANTI-THEISTIC THEORIES (Baird Lec-
tures for 1877), 5th edition, 1894.



WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS

LONDON AND EDINBURGH



SQC I A L I S M



BY



ROBERT FMNT

PROFESSOR IN THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH



J 1 ) J , 1 ) 3 , ' ->



* ,1 .* % J » » »



LONDON
ISBISTER AND COMPANY Limitei>

15 & i6 TAVISTOCK STREET COVENT GARDEN
1895



V^Hi.^t



^S5^



^<^ REFERENCE



o



AND cp^

4 MAY 1938 ^

POLITICAL
LIBRARY





C C C C C

< c c < c
' c c c c '



, C C _C C t



■ c c t * c t



Prinled hy Ballantyne, Hanson & Co.
At the Ballantyne Press






PREFACE

tfTHE first eight chapters of the following work are

^ an enlarged and otherwise considerably altered form

^ of a series of eight papers on SociaMsm contributed

so

^ to Good Words in 1 8 90-1.

The series itself originated in, and partly repro-
duced, a course of lectures delivered in Edinburgh
a few winters previously before an audience chiefly
of workino; men.

More than half of the work, however, is new ;
^nd has been written at intervals during the last
ui two summers.

A book thus composed must necessarily have

defects from which one written only with a view to

publication in book form would have been free.

The author has been prevented by more urgent

^demands on his time from adding to it two

^chapters for which he had prepared notes, one



:3



vi PREP'ACE

on " Socialism and Art," and another on " Socialism
and Science."

He trusts that, notwithstanding these and other
defects, its publication may not be considered
wholly unwarranted.

Johnstone Lodge, Craigmillar Park,
Edinburgh.

December, 1894.



CONTENTS



CHAP.
1.



II.



III.



WHAT IS SOCIALISM?

SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE ....

HISTORY OF SOCIALISM . . . . •

SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE — BRITISH SOCIALISM

COMMUNISM, COLLECTIVISM, INDIVIDUALISM, AND
INTERVENTION



STATE



IV.



SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE .....

SOCIALISM AND LABOUR

SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE — MARXIAN DOCTRIN



LABOUR



V.



SOCIALISM AND CAPITAL .....

SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE — MARXIAN DOCTRINE
CAPITAL



VI.
VII.

VIII.

IX.

X.

XI.



NATIONALISATION OF THE LAND

THE COLLECTIVISATION OF CAPITAL .
SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE

SOCIALISM AND SOCIAL 0"GANISATION

SOCIALISM AND DEMOCRACY

SOCIALISM AND MORALITY . .

SOCIALISM AND RELIGION . .

SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE . .

INDEX . ,



OF



OF



PAGE

9
23

28

47

55
81

lOI

136
157

183

202

231
250

256

299

344

427
493

-199



CHAPTER I.

WHAT IS SOCIALISM?

Socialism is undoubtedly spreading. It is, therefore,
right and expedient that its teachings, its claims, its
tendencies, its accusations and promises, should be
honestly and seriously examined. There may, indeed,
be persons who think that to treat of it at all is
unwise, and will only help to propagate it. Such
is not my opinion. It seems to me that there are
good and true elements in Socialism ; and these I
wish to see spread, and hope that discussion will
contribute to their diffusion. There are also, in my
judgment, bad and false elements in Socialism ; and
I have not so poor an opinion of human nature as
to believe that the more these are scrutinised the
more will they be admired.

I propose to discuss Socialism in a way that will be
intelligible to working men. It appeals specially
to them. It is above all their cause that its
advocates undertake to plead, and their sympathies
that they seek to gain. It is on the ground that it
alone satisfies the claims of justice in relation to the
labouring classes that Socialists urge the acceptance



lo SOCIALISM

of their system. I cast no doubt on the sincerity of
their professions or the purity of their motives in this
respect. I beUeye that Sociahs m has its deepest and
stron^st _root in a jdesire for tEe~\velfere of the
masses who toil hard and gain Httle. I grant freely
that it has had among its adherents many men of
the stuff of which heroes and martyrs are made :
men who have given up all to which ordinary men
cling most tenaciously, and who have welcomed
obloquy and persecution, poverty and death itself,
for what they deemed the cause of righteous-
ness and brotherhood. But the best-intentioned
men are sometimes o^reatly mistaken ; and Socialism
might prove the reverse of a blessing to working men,
although those who are pressing it on them may
mean them well. At all events, those who are so
directly appealed to regarding it seem specially called
to try to form as correct a judgment on it as they
can, and to hear what can be said both against
it and for it.

This is all the more necessary because of what
Socialism aims at and undertakes to do. It is
not a system merely of amendment, improvement,
reform. On the contrary, it distinctly pronounces
every system of that sort to be inadequate, and seeks
to produce an entire renovation of society, to eftect
a revolution of momentous magnitude. It does not
propose simply to remedy defects in the existing
condition of our industrial and social life. It holds
that condition to be essentially wrong, radically
unjust : and, therefore, demands that its whole
character be changed ; that society organise itself



WHAT IS SOCIALISM? ii

on entirely different principles from those on which
it has hitherto rested ; and that it proceed on quite
new lines and in quite another direction. Now, any-
very busy man may, perhaps, with some fair measure
! of reason, excuse himself from coming to any decision
at all on so radical and ambitious, so vast and
sweeping a scheme ; but certainly any person inclined
to entertain it should very seriously discuss it before
committing himself to it ; and any one asked to
accept it should think oftener than tw4ce before he
assents.

We have no right, it is true, to assume that the
existing order of society will not pass away, or that
the new order which Socialism recommends will not
displace it. All history is a process of incessant
change, and so a continuous protest against the
conservatism which would seek to perpetuate any
present. But neither is it a series of revolutions.
Kather is It a process of evolution in which revolution
is rare and exceptional. It is doubtful if any of the
violent revolutions of history might not have been
averted, with advantage to mankind, by timely and
gradual reforms. There is certainly a legitimate
presumption against readily believing in the necessity
or desirableness of social revolution.

The term " Socialism " is not yet sixty years old.
It is a disputed point whether it first arose in the
school of Owen ; or was invented by Pierre Leroux,
the author of a system known as "Humanitarianism;"
or had for author Louis Reybaud, a well known
publicist and a severe critic of Socialism.

J. S. Mill, in his "Political Economy," says "the



12



SOCIALISM



word orignated among the English Communists,"*
but he adduces no evidence for the statement, and
does not assign a date to the alleged origination.
Mr. Kirkup, in his " History of Socialism," tells us
that it was "coined in England in i835."t In
proof he merely refers to the following statement in
Mr. Holyoake's " History of Co-operation " (vol. i.
p. 2IO, ed. 1875): "The term Socialism was first
introduced on the formation of the Society of All
Classes of All Nations, the members of which came
to be known as socialists." But the statement is
self-contradictory. If the members of the Society
referred to only " came to he knoivn as socialists "
the term Socialism was certainly not "first introduced
on the formation of the Society," but after the Society
had been form,ed. How long after? That Mr.
Holyoake has not told us ; nor has he supported
his statement by any confirmatory quotations or
references. The term Socialism may, perhaps, have
originated in England ; may even, perhaps, have
been coined there in 1835 ; but, so far as I am aware,
no evidence has been adduced that such was the
case, nor any information afforded as to how the
term was employed by those who are said to have
first used it in England. The matter will no doubt
be cleared up in due time either by some private
inquirer or in the great English Dictionary edited
by Dr. Murray.

* Book II. ch. i. sec. 2. t P. i.

X From October 1836 onwards the terms " Socialist" and "Socialism,"
are of frequent occurrence in "The New Moral World," conducted by
Robert Owen and his disciples.



WHAT IS SOCIALISM? 13

M. Leroiix claimed* to have oiwinated the word
with the design of opposing it to " Individuahsm,"
a term which came somewhat earlier into use ; and
there is nothing improbable in the claim. But
M. Reybaud certainly preceded him in the employ-
ment of the word in print. He first made use of it
in August 1836, when he began a series of articles on
*' Modern Socialists " in the Revue des Deux Mondes.
He employed it as a general term for the same
group of systems which had been previously desig-
nated " Industrialism " by D'Eckstein and some
other French writers, t

The word rapidly gained currency, because it was
generally felt to be required in order to denote the
schemes of social organisation which had been crop-
ping up in France from the beginning of the century,
and which, between 1836 and 1848, appeared, as
De Tocqueville said, " almost every morning like
mushrooms that had grown up during the night."
Thus we have got the word, and we are not likely
to lose it from want of occasions of hearing; it or of
opportunities of using it.

A definition of Socialism may be demanded, and
one which will satisfy both Socialists and their
opponents. I not only do not pretend to give any
such definition, but consider it unreasonable to ask
for it. If Socialists and anti-Socialists could agree
at starting they would not fall out by the way.
The whole controversy between them has for end to

* In the "Journal des ^conomistes," July 1878.

t In Littre's dictionary we find no information as to the history of
either the term SociaUsme or Individuallsme.



14 SOCIALISM

determine whether the relevant facts — the doctrines,
proposals, and practices of what avows itself to be,
and is generally called, Socialism — warrant its
being defined as something essentially good or as
something essentially bad. The adherents and the
opponents of Socialism must necessarily define it in
contrary ways ; and no further agreement can
reasonably be expected from them at the outset
than agreement so to define it as to express their
respective views of its nature, and then to proceed
to examine honestly whether the facts testify for
or against their respective definitions.

Were it only because it is important to see
clearly tlie vanity of expecting as much from
definitions of Socialism as is generally done, it seems
desirable to refer to some of those which have been
proposed. The great French dictionary — the dic-
tionary of the Academy — thus defines it : " The
doctrine of men who pretend to change the State,
and to reform it, on an altogether new plan." This
definition makes nothing clear except that the
Academicians were not Socialists. There is nothing
necessarily socialist in pretending to change the
state of society and to reform it ; nothing precise in
saying " on an altogether new plan," unless the
character of the plan be indicated, for it might be
new and yet not socialist, but anti-socialist ; and no
Avarrant even for representing socialist plans as
" altogether new," they being in reality, for the
most part, very old. The French Academy's
definition of Socialism is, in fact, verv like the
medical student's famed definition of the lobster, as



WHAT IS SOCIALISM? 15

" a red fish which moves backwards " — the creature
not being a fish, or red, or moving backwards.

Littre in his dictionary often succeeded where
the Academicians failed, but not when he gave the
following as a definition of Socialism : "A system
^^•hich, regarding 2:)olitical reforms as of subordinate
importance, offers a plan of social reform," This is,
if possible, M-orse. It is to identify Socialism with
social reform, than which nothing can be more
inaccurate. Socialism generally claims to be social
revolution, and not merely social reform. It is by
no means a characteristic of Socialism to subordinate
the political to the social. The most advanced
Socialism seeks to revolutionise society by political
means, by the power of the State ; no class of men
believe more than Socialists do in the possibility
of making men good and happy by Acts of
Parliament — are more under the influence of what
Herbert Spencer calls "the great political supersti-
tion."

Passing over many other definitions let us come
at once to those used by Mr. Hyndman and Mr.
Bradlaugh in their debate at St. James's Hall,
April 17th, 1884, on the question, "Will Socialism
benefit the English people ? " Mr. Hyndman's w^as,
" Socialism is an endeavour to substitute for the
anarchical struggle or fight for existence an organised
co-operation for existence." Well, Socialism may
be that ; yet that cannot be an accurate and adequate
definition of Socialism. Few will deny that men
ought to substitute organisation for anarchy, and
co-operation for struggling or fighting, whenever



1 6 SOCIALISM

they can do so consistently with their independence
and freedom. But there is the point. Sociahsts have
no monopoly of appreciation of organised co-operation.
It is not in this respect that the great majority of
people differ from them : it is that they are
unwilling to be organised at the cost of their
liberty ; that they wish to be free to determine on
what conditions they are to co-operate ; that they
do not see how the organised co-operation suggested
is to be realised except through a despotism to
which they are not prepared to submit.

Mr. Bradlaugh succeeded much better, and, indeed,
as against Mr. Hyndman, perfectly. " Socialism,"
he said, " denies individual private property and
affirms that society organised as the State should
own all wealth, direct all labour, and compel the
equal distribution of all produce." This is a good
definition of the Socialism of the Social Democratic
Federation. It is a good definition, one may
perhaps even say, of all self- consistent political
Socialism which is likely to be of much political
significance. But there are many forms of Socialism
which are not self-consistent, and many more which
are never likely to have any political influence.
There is a Socialism which limits its dislike to
" individual private property," as property In land.
There is a Socialism which deems that the State
sliould appropriate the wealth of individuals only
when their wealth Is beyond a certain amount.
There is a Socialism, as Leroy-Beaulleu observes,
which would allow the mistress of a household to be
the proprietress of a sewing-needle but by no means



WHAT IS SOCIALISM? 17-

of a sewing-machine. And there is much Sociahsm
which would not go the length of Communism
and " compel the equal distribution of all produce."
So that Mr. Bradlaugh's definition although a good
working definition for the occasion, and not logically
assailable by his ojDponent, is not co-extensive with,
or applicable to, all forms of the thing sought to be
defined.

Perhaps M. Leroux, who professed to have in-
3 vented the word Socialism, came as near as any one
has done towards correctly defining it. He was
what most people would call a Socialist, but he did
not deem himself such, and did not use the term tO'
denote a true system. He opposed it, as he said,
to Individualism, and so he defined it as " a political
organisation in which the individual is sacrificed to
society." The definition may be improved by the
omission of the word " political," for the obvious
reason that there may be, and has been, a Socialism
not political but religious. The most thoroughgoing-
Socialism has generally been of a religious kind.
Where the entire sacrifice of the will and interests,
of the individual to the ends of a community are
demanded, as in Communism, the only motive
sufiiciently strong to secure it for any considerable
length of time, even in a small society, is the religious



>ocialism, then, as I understand it, is any tl
social organisation which sacrifices the legitimate
liberties of individuals to the will or interests of the
community. I do not think we can get much farther
in the way of definition. The thing to be defined is

B



\.



i8 SOCIALISM

of its very nature vague, and to present what is
vague as definite is to misrepresent it. No definition
of Socialism at once true and precise has ever been
given, or ever will be given. For Socialism is essen-
tially indefinite, indeterminate. It is a tendency
and movement towards an extreme. It may be
very great or very small ; it may manifest itself in
the most diverse social and historical connections ;
it may assume, and has assumed, a multitude of
forms. It may show itself merely in slight inter-
ferences with the liberties of very small classes of
individuals ; or it may demand that no individual
shall be allowed to be a capitalist or a proprietor, a
drawer of interest or a taker of rent ; or be entitled
even to have a wife or children to himself It is the
opposite of Individualism, which is similarly variable
and indeterminate in its nature, so that it may
manifest itself merely by rather too much dread of
over-legislation, or may go so far as seek the suppres-
sion of all government and legislation. Socialism is
the exaggeration of the rights and claims of society,
just as Individualism is the exaggeration of tlie
ricfhts and claims of individuals. The latter svstem
rests on excessive or exclusive faith in individual
independence ; the former system rests on excessive
or exclusive faith in social authority. Both systems
are one-sided and sectarian — as most " isms " are.

Accordhig to this view, there may be much truth
in Socialism, as there may be much truth in Indi-
vidualism, but there cannot be either a true Socialism
or a true Individualism. The truth lies between
them, yet is larger than either. The true doctrine



WHAT IS SOCIALISM? 19

of society must include the truth, while excluding
the error, both of Individualism and of Socialism. It
must be a doctrine which, while fully recognising
all the just claims of society, fully acknowledges
also all the rights of the individuals composing
society. The Socialist, of course, supposes his
Socialism to be just such a doctrine, and he may
claim or attempt so to define it. But obviously the
most extreme Individualist must believe the same
of his Individualism, and has as good a right to
define it as if it were the whole doctrine, and the
only true doctrine, of society. The Individualist no
more wishes to destroy society than the Socialist to
suj^press liberty : they agree in desiring to be just
both to society and the individual. But notwith-
standing this agreement, they differ ; and when we
seek to distinguish them, and to define their systems,
it is not with the mere general purpose or aim which
they share in common, but with the specific charac-
teristic in regard to which they differ, that we are
concerned. Now, wherein they differ is, that the
Socialist, while he may not mean to rob the in-
dividual of any portion of his rightful liberty, insists
on assigning to society powers incompatible with
due individual liberty ; and that the Individualist,
while he may be anxious that society should be
organised in the way most advantageous to all,
deems individuals entitled to a freedom which would
dissolve and destroy society. Neither Socialism nor
Individualism can, with any propriety, be accepted
as the true form of social organisation, or its doctrine
identified with Sociology or the science of society.



20 SOCIALISM

All definitions of Socialism which characterise it
by any feature not essential and peculiar are
necessarily futile and misleading. The following is
a specimen of the class : " Socialism is a theory of
social evolution, based on a new^ principle of economic
organisation, according to which industry should be
carried on by co-operative workers jointly controlling
the means of production." * Here Socialism is
identified with industrial partnership, which is
certainly not "a new principle of economic organisa-
tion ; " and in which there is, properly speaking,
nothing whatever of a socialistic nature.

J. S. Mill's definition may seem to resemble the
preceding, but is in reality essentially difiierent ;
" Socialism is any system which requires that the
land and the instruments of production should be
the property, not of individuals, but of communities
or associations, or of the Government." t This defini-
tion is defective, inasmuch as it does not apply, as
Mr. Mill himself admitted, to Communisn, wdiich is
the most thorough-going Socialism, the entire
abolition of private property. It is, however, a
good and honest definition so far as it extends, or
was meant to extend. It expressly states that
Socialism not merely favours industrial partnership,
but recocrnises no other form of economic orefanisa-
tion as legitimate, and accordingly demands the
suppression of all individual property in the means
of production.

The mode in which I understand, and in which I

* Kiikup's "Inquiry into Socialism," p. 125.

f " Political Economy," p. 125. People's edition.



WHAT IS SOCIALISM? 21

mean to employ the term Socialism, will not, I am
aware, commend itself to those who call themselves
Socialists, I do not ask or expect any Socialist who
may read this and the following chapter to assent to
the view or definition of Socialism which I have here
given. I ask and expect him merely to note in what
sense I purpose using the word, namely, to denote
only social doctrines, or proposals which I think I
may safely undertake to prove require such a
sacrifice of the individual to society as society is not
entitled to exact. I claim the right to define
Socialism frankly and avowedly from my own point
of view — the non-socialistic.

But I fully admit that there is a duty corre-
sponding to the right. It is the duty of not
attempting to reason from my definition as if it
were an absolute truth, or as if it were one to
which Socialists assent. Such a definition is merely
an affirmation which the opponent of Socialism must
undertake to show holds good of any system which
he condemns as Socialism, and which an advocate of
Socialism must undertake to show does not hold
good of the system which he himself recommends.

Any one not a Socialist must, as I have said, define
Socialism in a way which will imply that it neces-
sarily involves injustice to individuals. The Socialist
will be apt to say that in doing so one starts with
tlie assumption that Socialism is false and wrong, in
order, by means of the assumption, to condemn it
as such. And the charge will be justified if one
really judges of the character of any so-called
socialistic system by his definition of Socialism.



2 2 SOCIALISM

But this is what no reasonable and fair-minded
man will do. Such a man will examine any system
on its own merits, and decide by an unbiassed
examination of it as it is in itself whether or not it
does justice to individuals ; and all that he will do
with his definition will be to determine whether,
when compared with it, the system in question is
to be called socialistic or not. There is nothing
unfair or unreasonable in this. It is not judging of
Socialism by an unfavourable definition of it ; but
only deciding, after an investigation which may be,
and should be, uninfluenced by the definition,
w^iether the definition be applicable or not.

What has been said as to the nature of Socialism
may, however, indicate what ought to be the answ^er
to a question which has been much debated, namely
— Is it a merely temporary phase of historical de-
velopment, or its inevitable issue ? Is it a trouble-
some dream which must soon pass away ; or a
fatal disease the germs of which the social constitu-
tion bears in it from the first and under which it



Online LibraryRobert FlintSocialism → online text (page 1 of 38)