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must at last succumb ; or the glorious goal to which
humanity is gradually moving ? On the view of its
nature here adopted, it is not exactly any of these
things. It is neither merely accidental nor purely
essential. It arises from principles inherent in the
life and necessary to the welfare of society ; but it
does not spring from them inevitably, and is the
one-sided exaggeration of them. Inasmuch, how-
ever, as truth underlies and originates it, and the
exaggeration of that truth is always easy, and
sometimes most difiicult to avoid, without being



WHAT IS SOCIALISM? 23

strictly necessary it is extremely natural ; and society
can never be sure that it will ever on earth get free
of it, while it may be certain that it will have to
pass through crises and conjunctures in which it
will find Socialism a very grave matter to deal with.
Society has always the Scylla and Charybdis of
Socialism and Individualism on its right hand and its
left, and it is never without danger from the one or
the other. It is sometimes, of course, in much more
danofer from the one than from the other.

SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE.

It may not be without use to lay before the reader a few more
definitions of Socialism. It is very desirable that we should
realise how vague and ambiguous the term is, and how indis-
pensable it is to ascertain on all occasions what those who use it
mean by it.

When Proudhon, on examination before a magistrate after
the days of June in 1848, was asked. What is Socialism? he
replied, " Every aspiration towards the amelioration of society."
" In that case," said the magistrate, " we are all Socialists."
" That is precisely what I think," said Proudhon. It is to be
regretted that he was not further asked, What, then, was the
use of the definition ?

Mr. Kaufman's definition reminds us of Proudhon's. After
making the entirely erroneous statement that " the very name "
of Socialism means nothing else but " the betterment of society,"
he tells us that he himself includes under it " Communism,
Collectivism, and every systematic effort under whatever name,
to improve society according to some theory more or less
explicitly defined." See " Subjects of the Day," No. 2, p. i.

Littre, in a discussion on Socialism contained in his " Paroles
de Philosophie Positive," somewhat similarly says, " Socialism is
a tendency to modify the present state, under the impulse of an
idea of economic amelioration, and by the discussion and inter-
vention of the labouring classes," p. 394. He had already, in



24 SOCIALISM

anothei' discussion to be found in the same volume, given a far
more extraordinary definition : " Socialism is a word felicitously
devised (heureusement trouve) to designate a whole of senti-
ments, without implying any doctrine," p. 376.

I have not been able to find that Karl Marx has given
any formal definition of Socialism. Mr. Holyoake states that
he defines the " Socialistic ideal as nothing else than the
material world reflected by the human mind, and translated
into powers of thought," and remarks that "it would require
an insurrection to get the idea into the heads of any considerable
number of persons" ("Subjects of the Day," No. 2, p. 96).
This is a very curious mistake. The words of Marx are : " With
me the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by
the human mind and translated into forms of thought." See
pref. to 2nd ed. of "Capital."

Bebel's definition is very pretentious and unreasonable :
" Socialism is science applied with clear consciousness and full
knowledge to every sphere of human activity " (" Die Frau," p.
376, 13th ed., 1892).

According to Adolf Held, " We can only call Socialism every
tendency which demands any kind of subordination of the
individual will to the community " (" Sozialismus, Sozialdemo-
kratie, und Sozialpolitik," p. 29). Were this so, all but thorough
Anarchists — Anarchists more thorough than any who have yet
appeared — would be Socialists.

Dr. Barry, in his admirable " Lectures on Christianity and
Socialism," while professedly admitting Held's definition to be
satisfactory, gives as its equivalent what is really a much better
one : " Socialism must, I take it, properly mean the emphasising
and cultivating to a predominant power all the socialising forces
— all the forces, that is, which represent man's social nature and
assert the sovereignty of human society ; just as Individualism is
the similar emphasis and cultivation of the energy, the freedom,
the rights of each man as individual" (p. 22). What, however,
do these words precisely imply ? If a theory of society do
justice alike to the claims of the individual and of the com-
munity, or if a man sacrifice neither the individualising ener-
gies of his nature to its socialising forces, nor the latter to the
former, but duly cultivate both, there is no more reason, even



WHAT IS SOCIALISM? 25

according to the definitions given, for describing that man or
that theory as socialistic than as individualistic, or as indi-
vidualistic than as socialistic, and if you either describe them
as both, or apply the terms to them indiscriminately, the words
Socialism and Individualism cease to have any distinctive mean-
' ing. It is only when in theory or in life the emphasising of the
social forces is carried to excess relatively to the individual
energies, or vice versa, that either Socialism or Individualism
emerges. But if so, Dr. Barry should define them just as I do,
and recognise as of the very essence of both a departure from
truth, a disregard of order and proportion.

Bishop Westcott, in a paper read at the Chvirch Congress,
Hull, Oct. ist, 1890,* treated of Socialism in a way which justly
attracted much attention. He identified Socialism with an
ideal of life very elevated and true, and recommended that
ideal in words of great power and beauty. I can cordially
admire his noble pleading for a grand ideal. I am only unable
to perceive that the term Socialism should be identified with that
ideal. He says : " The term Socialism has been discredited by
its connection with many extravagant and revolutionaiy schemes,
but it is a term which needs to be claimed for nobler uses. It has
no necessary afiinity with any forms of violence, or confiscation,
or class selfishness, or financial arrangement. I shall therefore
venture to employ it apart from its historical associations as
describing a theory of life, and not only a theory of economics.
In this sense Socialism is the opposite of Individualism, and it is
by contrast with Individualism that the true character of Socialism
can best be discerned. Individualism and Socialism correspond
with opposite views of humanity. Individualism regards humanity
as made up of disconnected or warring atoms ; Socialism regards
it as an organic whole, a vital unity formed by the combination
of contribvitory members mutually inter-dependent. It follows
that Socialism diSers from Individualism both in method and in
aim. The method of Socialism is co-operation, the method of
Individualism is competition. The one regards man as working
with man for a common end, the other regards man as Avorking

* Now republished in the volume entitled " The Incarnation and
Common Life."



26 SOCIALISM

against man for private gain. The aim of Socialism is the fulfil-
ment of service, the aim of Individualism is the attainment of
some personal advantage, riches, or place, or fame. Socialism
seeks such an organisation of life as shall secure for every one the
most complete development of his powers. Individualism seeks
primainly the satisfaction of the particular wants of each one in
the hope that the pursuit of private interest will in the end
secure public welfare " (" Socialism," pp. 3—4).

Now, it seems to me that to dissociate the term Socialism from
the forms in which Socialism has manifested itself in history,
and to claim it for nobler uses than to express what is distinctive
of them, is too generous. What we really need the term for is
to designate a species of actual schemes ; and to define it aright
we must understand by it what is characteristic of all schemes of
that species. If nothing but good be admitted into the definition
of the term, while the chief or only historical schemes which have
an unquestioned right to the name are essentially evil, these
schemes must derive from the name and its definition a credit and
advantage to which they are not entitled. And if we are thus
generous to Socialism we must be less than just to Individualism.
Conceiving of it as the opposite of a system wholly good, we
must regard it as a system wholly evil. An Individualism which
views individuals as entirely unconnected and independent, which
excludes co-operation, which deems the good of one as important
as the good of many or all, is one which I cannot find to have
existed. A Socialism which really regards humanity as an
organic whole will also be difiicult to discover. In its two
great forms of Communism and Collectivism, Socialism is of all
economic and political systems the one which most manifestly
treats humanity as merely a mass or sum of individuals. The
" society " to which it sacrifices individuals is just the majority
of individuals. "What it aims at is not the realisation of that true
ideal of society which Bishop Westcott calls Socialism ; it is not
the attainment of the highest good of the whole and of every one
in relation to the whole, but the attainment of the equal good
of all, however much sacrifice of the exceptional and higher good
of any may be required for that purpose. Socialism as an
historical reality demands the equality of individuals in regard
to means, opportunities, labour, and enjoyment. It directly



WHAT IS SOCIALISM? 27

appeals to the egoism and selfishness of the great majority of
individuals. In the words of Mr. Bosanquet, " the basis of
Socialism is as yeX individualistic, the State being regarded, not
as a society organic to good life, but as a machine subservient to
the individual's needs qud individual." But, it may be said, does
that not of itself justify the employment of the term to signify
the true theory of society ? It seems to me that it does not, and
for two reasons : first, because it is not in itself desirable to
designate the true theory of society an ism; and second, because
those who maintain an erroneous theory of society are in actual
possession of the name Socialists, and will not forego their right
to retain it. Therefore, I think, we ought to restrict the term
Socialism as much as we can to their creed. That the term is
already far too widely and vaguely used needs no other proof
than the number of men recognised as eminently wise who have
been befooled by it to such an extent as to tell us that " we are
all Socialists now."

The following definitions may be added : — *' We call Socialism
every doctrine which affirms that it is the ofiice of the State to
correct the inequality of wealth which exists among men, and to
re-establish by law equilibrium, by taking from those who have
too much in order to give to those who have not enough, and that
in a permanent manner, and not in such and such a particular
case, a famine, for instance, or a public catastrophe, Szc." (P.
Janet, " Les Origines du Socialisme Contemporain," p. 67). — " In
the first place, every Socialistic doctrine aims at introducing
greater equality into social conditions ; and secondly, it tries
to realise these reforms by the action of the law or the State "
(E. Laveleye, "Socialism of To-day," p. xv.). — "The word
Socialism has but one signification : it denotes a doctrine which
demands the suppression of the proletariat and the complete
remission of wealth and power into the hands of the com-
munity (collectivite)." (T. De Wyzewa, " Le Mouvement So-
cialiste," p. iii.) — " Socialism is the economic philosophy of the
suflering classes." (H. v. Scheel in " ScbouLergs Handb. der pol.
Oekoncmie," Bd. i. 107



CHAPTER 11.

HISTORY OF SOCIALISM.

If we desire to form an intelligent estimate of
Socialism we should not fail to take due account of
its history. Here I can only make a few, seeming-ly
indispensable, remarks on that history.*

We have of late years heard much about Primi-
tive Socialism. I object to the designation when-
ever it is used to imply that Socialism was the
primitive condition of man. We do not know what
the primitive condition of man was. Pecent science
and research have enabled us to see much farther
back into the past than our forefathers could, but
they have not yet reached results which entitle
us either to affirm or deny that history began with
Socialism.

Two views of Primitive Socialism are prevalent,
and they are essentially different, delineating two
distinct social states, one of which only can have

* Of histories of Socialism, Malon's "Histoire da Socialisme," a five-
volumed work, is the fullest of information. la English, Rae's " Con-
temporary Socialism," Laveleye's "Socialism of To-day" (translated),
Graham's "Socialism New and Old," and Kirkup's "History of Socialism,"
are all valuable. Rudolph Meyer's " Emancipationskampf des Vierten
Standes," 2 vols., is a laborious compilation of facts, and rich in
documentary sources. Reybaud, Stein, Thonisseu, Franck, Janet, Jiiger,
Adler, anl many others have done good work as historians of the socialistic
movement.



HISTORY OF SOCIALISM 29

been primitive, while both might be secondary, the
one as a stao-e of deofradation and the other as a
stage of improvement. According to McLennan,
Lubbock, and a host of other scientists, hmnanity
was cradled in a coarse and brutal Communism. In
their view, the earliest human societies knew neither
a separate family life nor private property, being
ignorant of any other laws than those of inclina-
tion and force. If this representation of man's first
estate be correct we have only to congratulate our-
selves that Primitive Socialism lies so far behind
us, for it was not only man's earliest but his lowest
and least human condition.

What is most generally meant by Primitive
Socialism, however, is a much higher state, one
comparatively moral and civilised. Greek and
Roman poets sang of a golden age, when poverty
and avarice were unknown, when there was no
violence or fraud, and when all things were in
abundance and in common. It is now claimed that
modern historical investigation has discovered this
golden age of ancient tradition, and that it is the
true Primitive Socialism. Maurer, Maine, and many
others, have exhibited a vast amount of evidence,
tending to prove that in the history of every
country inhabited by any division of the Aryan
race, and of not a few countries lying beyond the
Aryan area, there was a time when the soil was
distributed among groups of self-styled kinsmen,
and when private property in land was scarcely
known or was non-existent. A very attractive and
popular view of the evidence for this conclusion has



30 SOCIALISM

been given by M. Lave] eye in his well-known
work on " Primitive Property." In a general way
this historical theory seems legitimately and satis-
factorily established. But closer study is revealing
that it has been presented too absolutely, and
accepted without due criticism and limitation.
Much which Laveleye calls collective 'property
might more properly be called collective tenancy;
and much which he calls primitive is probably
not very old, and owed its existence largely to
the fact that in turbulent times kings and chiefs
could have got nothing out of isolated individuals ;
that only communities could cultivate land and j^ay
taxes or yield services. There is no evidence that
the land of the world was ever distributed among
peaceful agricultural communities, entirely indepen-
dent of lords and masters, within or without the
community.* On the other hand, the theory which
represented private property in land to have been
always and everywhere recognised and in force is
now entirely discredited. Property in movables
naturally preceded property in land ; and the collect-
ive tenure of land generally preceded, perha|)s, its
individual tenure.

The stage of society in which land was occupied
by communities, not individuals, was one In which
men scarcely existed as individuals. The law and
tlie religion which corresponded to it knew next to



* In the latest (fourth) edition of his '■ De la Propriete et de ses Formes
rrimitives," 1891, M. Laveleye replied carefully, and at considerable length,
to th3 objections of Fustel de Coulanges, Dentnan Ross, and other critics
of his theory ; but not, I think, conclusively.



HISTORY OF SOCIALISM 31

nothing of individuals ; they were concerned with
lamiHes and groups, in which no one felt with any
distinctness that he had rights and duties simply as
a man. When the claims of private judgment and
of independent action were thus not so much denied
and rejected as undiscovered and unimagined, what
is called " Primitive Socialism " may have been not
only the natural and appropriate form of organisa-
tion of human societies, but the only one which they
could assume. It is simply just to look back to it
with due recognition of its merits ; it must be foolish
to dream of recalling or restoring it. In every
progressive society it has been long outgrown.
Where it still lingers it must disappear as freedom
and energy increase. The natural childhood of
nations as of individuals lies behind them and can
never be recalled ; the only childhood which the
future can have in store for them is an unnatural
childhood, that second childhood of decadence which
is the sure forerunner of dissolution. When men
have once awakened to a sense of their ri^rhts and
duties as individuals, they can never again be con-
tent to think and act merely as members of a
community. When the persons who compose society
have each become conscious of a properly personal
life and destiny, the unconscious kind of Socialism is
henceforth impossible. The Socialism which alone
seriously concerns us is of a very different character.
It is a conscious Socialism, which knows itself and
knows its enemy ; which is the assert er of one class
of claims and rights and the denier of another ;
which is the vigilant, active combatant, sometimes



32 SOCIALISxM

defeated, sometimes victorious, but never entirely
suppressed, and never completely successful, of
individuality and Individualism.*

In the nations of antiquity the individual was
sacrificed to the State ; but State-absolutism,
although clearly related to, is not to be identified
with Socialism. The sacrifices which it demands may
be political, not social ; sacrifices to the governing
power, not to the common interest. But what
makes the history of nations like Greece and
Home of vast practical importance to a student of
Socialism is not so much any socialistic legislation
to which these nations had recourse, or any social-
istic theories to be found in some of their writers, as
the examples which they have left us of cultured
and powerful peoples ruined by failure to solve
aright "the social question." The direct and
immediate cause of the ruin of the Greek cities
was neither the falsitv of their relio-ion nor the
prevalence of slavery. The poor had political rights
and political power and they used them against the

* Roscher has shown (see his "Political Economy," book i., ch. v., sec.
78) that the idea of a community of goods, and schemes of a sociali.-tic
character, have found favour especially in times when the following con-
ditions have met : — (A) A well-defined confrontation of rich and poor,
without any gradual and continuous passing of one class into another ;
(B) a high degree of the division of labour, by which, on the one hand,
the mutual dependence of men grows ever greater, but by which, at the
same time, the eye of the uncultivated man becomes less and less able to
l^erceive the connection existing between merit and reward, or service and
remuneration ; (C) a violent shaking or perplexing of public opinion as
regards the sense of right, by revolutions, particularly when they follow
rapidly on one another, and take opposite directions; (D) a democratic
constitution of society, and the pretensions and feelings which it implies
or generates ; and (E) a general decay of religion and morals, and the
spread of atheistic and materialistic beliefs.



HISTORY OF SOCIALISM 33

rich to obtain equality of wealth, sometimes impos-
ing all the taxes upon them, sometimes confiscating
their goods, sometimes condemning them to death
or exile, sometimes abolishing debts, sometimes
equally dividing property. The rich resisted by
all means in their power, by violence and fraud,
conspiracy and treason. Each Greek city thus
included, as it were, two hostile peoples, and civil
wars were incessant, the object in every war being,
as Polybius says, "to displace fortunes." This
ruined the Greek cities. Fifty years' agitation of the
social question in the same manner would be found
sufficient to ruin the strongest nations of modern
Europe, notwithstanding their freedom from slavery
and their profession of Christianity. Kome suffered
and died from the same malady as Greece. Before
the close of the Republic she had twice experienced
a social revolution of the most sanguinary nature.
She sought a refuge and remedy in the Empire, and
at the expense of industry it fed and pampered an
idle population. This solution secured rest for a time,
but naturally ended in utter exhaustion and ruin.*

The series of socialistic ideals or Utopias which
have appeared in the world can be traced back to
that of Phileas of Chalcedon, about six centuries
before Christ.t Attempts to realise socialistic aspira-

* Prof. Pohlmann of Erlangen has published the first vohime of a
contemplated elaborate " Geschichte des antiken Kommunismus und
Sozialismus," 1893.

f See the volume " Ideal Commonwealths," in Morley's Universal
Library, the Kev. M. Kaufman's " Utopias : Schemes of Social Im-
provement from Sir Thos. More to Karl Marx," 1879 ; and Fr. Klein-
wiichhter's " Die Staatromane. Ein Beitrag zur Lehre vom Communismus
und Socialismus," 1891.

C



34 SOCIALISM

tions and claims have been made in many lands and
ages, and in many forms and ways. Socialism is,
therefore, no new thing. It has, however, entered
on a new period of its history, and one which may
be very prolonged and very momentous.

The socialistic theories which appeared in France
even before the Revolution* were merely antecedents
or preludes of the Socialism which at present pre-
vails. Saint-Simon, who died in 1825, and Fourier,
who died in 1837, were its true founders. Both of
these extraordinary men left behind them disciples
strongly convinced that the reorganisation of society
on new principles, by the establishment of new
arrangements and institutions, and with a steady
view to the amelioration of the class the most
numerous and poor, was the most important and
urgent of all problems. Louis Blanc convinced a
multitude of his countrymen that the national
organisation of labour was one of the chief duties of
a Government. Proudhon, although a capricious
and unequal thinker on economic subjects, has,
perhaps, not been surpassed in critical keenness and
argumentative ingenuity by any later Socialist.
These and other French writers made Socialism in
its new phase known to all Europe, but for a con-
siderable time it remained almost confined to France.
It is no long'er so. France is now far from being:
the country most threatened by Socialism. Agrarian
Socialism has little chance of success in France,
owing to the relatively large number of its land-

* The theories referred to are those of Meslier, Morelly, Mably, Rousseau,
and Babeuf.



HISTORY OF SOCIALISM 35

owners. Anti-capitalist Socialism has no attraction
for the bourgeoisie, and can only move the masses in
the manufacturing- towns in France, and these are
comparatively few in number. Socialism has, how-
ever, numerous adherents, sincere and effective
advocates, and skilful literary representatives in
France. French Socialism was no more slain on the
barricades of 1871 than on those of 1848.*

Every country of Europe has now been more or
less invaded by Socialism ; and, of course, all these
countries supply the United States of America with
advocates of it.t

In Spain and Italy it has taken a strong hold
of the peasantry, who are in many districts
grievously oppressed by excessive rent and taxa-
tion, and the result has been seen in various



Online LibraryRobert FlintSocialism → online text (page 2 of 38)