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delirious illusions which are the effects and symptoms
of his malady.

* ti

Philosophy and rditical Economy," p. 353.


According to the teaching of Social Democracy
there are no natural laws in the economic sphere,
and especially in that of the distribution of wealth,
but only laws which are the creations of human will,
made by society and imposed on itself But this teach-
ing is the reverse of true, and it du^ectly encourages
men to expect from society what it cannot give them,
and necessarily embitters them against it for not
bestowing on them what is impossible. According to
the same teaching, labour is the sole cause of value,
and the labouring classes alone are entitled to all
wealth. This is no less false, and it equally tends to
spread in a portion of the community unwarrantable
hatred against another portion, and to generate ex-
travagant expectations in connection with proposals
of the most mischievous kind. The suppression of
the wage-system, as recommended by Socialism,
could not fail to destrov the chief industrial enter-
prises of a countr}^ like Britain ; the abolition of
money would paralyse its commerce. The measures
of confiscation advocated by it under the names of
expropriation, nationalisation, and collectivisation,
would take away indispensable stimuli to exertion
and prudence, individuality and inventiveness, and
60 end in general impoverishment and misery. The
social unrest of which Socialism is the symptom
cannot be allayed with doses of Socialism either
pure or diluted. The distinctive economic tenets of
Socialism are fatal economic errors. But it is only
on economic truths that economic well-being can be
founded. And this applies in an even special degree
to democratic societies as being self-governing


societies, or, in other words, societies ruled by public
opinion, and, therefore, societies in which it is of
the last importance that public opinion should be
true opinion.

The ethics of Social Democracy will come under
consideration in the next chapter, and therefore it is
only requisite to say here that it is not better than
its economics. It is an ethics which treats indi-
vidual morality as almost a matter of indifference,
and which fatally sacrifices individual rights to
social authority. Its teaching as to domestic rela-
tions and duties is unhealthy. The justice in-
culcated by it is largely identical with what is
commonly and properly meant by injustice. Such a
moral doctrine must be pernicious to the life of any
society, but especially to that of a democratic
society. All who have thought seriously on forms of
government and of society have recognised that the
democratic form is the one which makes the laro-est
demand for the personal and domestic virtue of its
members ; the one to the security and strength of
which the general prevalence of settled and correct
conceptions of justice is the most absolutely indis-
pensable. It is to an exceptional degree true of
democratic societies that in them the social problem
is a moral problem. A Democracy pervaded by the
ethical principles of Social Democracy must soon
become disorganised and putrid.

Social Democracy has been able to inspire large
numbers of men with a sincerity and strength of
faith, and an intensity of zeal seldom to be found
dissociated from religion. Hence, perhaps, in a


loose way it may be spoken of as religious. Of
religion, however, in the ordinary sense of the term
it has none. It acknowledges no Supreme Being
other than the State or Society ; no worship but
that of Leviathan. Its cult is identical with its
polity. It rests on a materialistic view of the uni-
verse and of life, and recognises no other good than
such as is of an earthly and temporary nature. It
is not merely indifferent to religion but positively
hostile to it. It not only despises it as superstition,
but hates it as the support of tyranny and the
instrument of severity. Its motto might be that of
Blanqui, Ni Dieu ni maitre. If it triumph another
age of religious persecution will have to be
traversed. But reason and history alike lead us to
believe that faith in God and reverence for God's
law are essential to the welfare of societies ; that
any people which accepts a materialistic and
atheistic doctrine condemns itself to anarchy or
slavery, to a brief and ignoble career. What it
calls liberty will be licentiousness, and the more of
it it possesses, the shorter will be its course to self-
destruction. On this subject, however, I need not
dwell as I shall have to treat of Socialism in relation
to religion in a subsequent chapter.

Socialism, it may now be perceived, is dangerous
to Democracy, inasmuch as it tends to foster and
intensify what is partial and exclusive in the demo-
cratic ideal. It urges it on to reject the truth
Vx4iich gave significance and vitality to the theo-
cratic ideal. It is anti-monarchical, and will only
tolerate a republican form of government even


where monarchy would be practically preferable. It
errs as much through jealousy of social inequalities
as Aristocracy does through pride in them. It
strives after social equality as a good in itself, even
when it is an equality only to be obtained by
levelling down, by general compression. In this
respect it is peculiarly dangerous in a democracy
because it seduces it through its chief weakness-
Where each man has some share in government,
many are apt to think all should have an equal
share. The ordinary mind is rarely just towards
the exceptional mind. Average human nature may
be easily persuaded to aid in pulling down whatever
seems to it so high as to overshadow itself

Socialism is jealous even of the inequality neces-
sarily implied in the parliamentary system, and
hence does not interest itself in the real improve-
ment of the system. The parliament of a nation
ought to be truly representative of the nation as an
organic whole, of the steady, persistent will and
general pervading reason of the commonwealth, and
not merely of fluctuating majorities gained by elec-
tion tricks. But a parliament thus representative
is one naturally very difiicult to secure, and, per-
haps, especially so, when the democratic spirit is
dominant. Democracy arrived at a certain stage of
development demands universal suftrage ; and the
claim may be one which neither ought to be nor can
be refused. But universal sufirage will never of
itself ensure to a nation a true parliamentary re})re-
sentation of it as a whole, or in the entirety of its
interests. It can only yield a representation ol'


individuals ; and the governmental majority which
results from it may conceivably be a majority of one
and may even have been returned by a minority of
the electors. Education, art, science, and other
great national interests may be left w^holly unrepre-
sented in the legislative body. Interests too strong
politically to be left altogether unrepresented may
only be represented in a one-sided way. Does
Socialism warn Democracy of its danger in this
respect, or suggest to it any remedy for the evil?
On the contrary, it encourages that excessive con-
fidence in the virtues of universal suffrage which
generally prevails in democratic communities, and
still more the excessive and equally prevalent
jealousy of any representation over and above that
of individuals alone.

Yet Socialism has not like common Democracy
any admiration of the parliamentary system. Prob-
ably no class of persons estimates the worth of our
time-serving politicians at a lower figure, or is less
deceived by them, than Socialists. The socialistic
criticism of parliamentaryism has always been of a
searching and unsparing kind, not lacking in truth,
but erring on the side of severity. It has, however,
not been criticism intended to improve the constitu-
tion, or efficiency, or morality of parliament, but
either to make it despised and hated, or to make it
a better instrument for the introduction of a system
which will dispense with it.

Socialists see in a parliament an instrument which
thev hope to get possession of, in order to nationalise
land and to collectivise j^roperty. When the instru-


ment has served their purpose they do not mean to
preserve it, but to break it, and cast it aside. They
have, therefore, no desire to improve it as an instru-
ment for directing national energies and supplying
national wants. Their aim is to render it a more
effective instrument of revolution during the period
of transition between Capitalism and Collectivism.
It is least intolerable to them when exclusively a
representation of individuals, and when members
are paid, and as dependent as possible. They would
prefer, however, direct government or delegation
with an imperative mandate to representation in the
ordinary sense of the term.

Socialism, in fact, has no just claim to the credit
of taking an organic view of society. It is at one
with Individualism in treating society as an aggre-
gation of units. What Social Democracy proposes
to do is to compress all the individual units com-
posing a community or nation into an economic
system which will secure for each unit the maximum
of material enjoyment for the minimum of necessary
physical labour. In this conception there is no
recognition of the true nature of society, of its
nature as an organic whole, with interests of a pro-
perly social, moral, and spiritual character. Such
Socialism is obviously individualistic in its ideal
and aims. It differs from Individualism only in its
employment of social force and pressure in order to
realise its ideal and reach its aims. "Economical
Socialism," writes Mr. Bosanquet, "is no barrier
against Moral Individualism, The resources of the
State may be more and more du-ectly devoted to


the individual's well-being, while the individual is
becoming less and less concerned about any well-
being except his own." * Collectivism is a Socialism
of this kind, and hence its influence on Democracy
must necessarily be evil.

Further, Socialism must act unfavourably on
Democracy in so far as it infuses into it its own
excessive faith in the rights and powers of the
State. The distinctive tendency of Socialism is
unduly to extend the sphere and functions of the
State, and to make individuals comjjletely depen-
dent on corporate society. For the Socialist the
will of the State should be revered as authoritative
in itself and accepted without question as the
supreme and comprehensive law of human conduct.
This reverence and obedience it does not receive, and
is not entitled to receive, at present, because it is
confounded wdth government, as contradistinguished
from society ; but when this opposition is done away
with, and the State will become the expression or
personification of organised society, of the socialised
commonwealth, there can be no higher soiu'ce of
authority in the universe, no worthier object of
worship ; and then no one must be allowed to show
it disrespect or to challenge its behests. " Socialists,"
says one of the most scientific and learned among
them, " have to inculcate that spirit which would
give offenders against the State short shrift and the
nearest lamp-post. Every citizen must learn to say
with Louis XIV., IJEtat c'est moi." t

* '' Essays and Addresses," p. 70.

f Carl Pearson, " Ethic of Free Thought," p. 324.


Quite so. Contemporary Socialism desires to serve
itself heir to the Absolutism of past ages. Its spirit
is identical with that of all despotisms. It seeks to
deify itself, and means to brook no resistance to its
will. The Socialist in saying LEtat c'est moi will only
give expression to the thought which animated the
first tyrant. If Socialism can impregnate and inspire
the Democracy of our time with this spirit, society
in the near future will lie under the oppression of a
fearful despotism.

Socialists are striving with extraordinary zeal and
success to convert the adherents of Democracy to their
faith. They fancy that if they can succeed in doing
so they are certain to gain their ends and to establish
Socialism throughout the whole of Christendom at
least. It seems to me that they are too hasty in
coming to this conclusion. They ought to consider
not only whether or not they can socialise Demo-
cracy, but whether or not a socialist Democracy can
live. The latter question is the more important of
the two.

I grant that it is quite possible that Demo-
cracy may be so infatuated and misled as to
adopt the principles and dogmas of Socialism. I
deem it even not improbable that early in the
approaching century in several of the countries of
Europe the socialistic revolution may be so far
successful that for a time the powers of government
will be in the hands of socialistic leaders who will
make strenuous efforts to carry out the socialistic

Socialism abusing the forces of Democracy may


bring about a terrible revolution. Will, however,
the revolution thus effected by it found the state of
things that Socialism promises, and one at the
same time satisfactory to Democracy ? History
affords us no encouragement to expect that it will.
Hitherto all revolutions wrought by Democracy
with a view not to the attainment of reasonable
liberties but to equality of material advantages — i.e.,
all essentially socialistic revolutions — have led only
to its own injury or ruin. Greece and Rome not
merely reached a democratic stage, but they passed
through it into Csesarism. May not the nations of
modern Europe which have reached the same state
share the same fate ? Nay, must they not have the
same fate unless they avoid the same faults ? Is it
not inevitable that any revolution which they can
conceivably effect under the influence of passion for
an equality inconsistent with freedom, of a perverted
sense of justice, of party fanaticism, and the desire
of plunder, will speedily be found to end in the
triumph of anti-democratic reaction ? It has always
been so ; and probably always will be so. The
primary necessity of society is order, security ; and
to obtain that it will always sacrifice anything

At a time when Karl Marx had hardly any
followers in Britain he gave expression to the con-
viction that it was in Britain that his system would
be first adopted. He based his conviction on what
is certainly a fact, namely, that the British Con-
stitution presents no obstacle to the adoption of any
system. If Socialists so increase as to be able to


elect a majority of the members of the House of
Commons the whole socialistic programme may be
constitutionally converted into law, and constitution-
ally carried into effect at the point of the bayonet.
Thus far Marx saw quite clearly. And, possibly,
the time may come when the people of Britain will
be so infatuated as to send to ParHament a socialist

But would a socialist Parliament even with a
socialist majority of the people at its back be able
to establish a collectivist or communist regime ?
Would not the minority opposed to it be superior
in all the chief elements of power, except numbers,
to the majority supporting it ? And would not that
minority have every motive to induce it to make
the uttermost resistance to the order of things
sought to be introduced ? The immediate effect of
Parliament passing into law a collectivist programme
would not be the establishment of Collectivism but
the origination of social and civil war, out of which
there has always come, and must come, the repression
of free parliamentary government, and the substitu-
tion for it of military and absolutist government.

Our English House of Commons has slowly and
insensibly acquired the enormous power which it
possesses because it has on the whole deserved it ;
because, more than any other representative
assembly in the world, it has justified national
confidence in its practical wisdom, its patriotism, its
regard for its own honour, and its respect for the
liberties and rights of the citizens. When it loses
the qualities to which it owes its power, and uses


that power to give effect to demagogic passions and
socialistic cupidities, it will suddenly fall from the
proud height to which it has slowly risen. Those
who excite our English Democracy to revolution
with a view to the introduction of a coUectivist
millennium are really working towards the establish-
ment not of Social Democracy but of strong Indi-
vidual Government.

So many Democracies have ended in Despotisms
that many have concluded that they all must do so ;
that there is a law of nature, an invariable law of
history, which determines that Democracy must
always give place to autocratic government. Most
Democracies have been short-lived ; some historians
and theorists believe that they all will be so.
"Democracies," says Froude, "are the blossoming
of the aloe, the sudden squandering of the vital
force which has accumulated in the long years when
it was contented to be healthy and did not aspire
after a vain display. The aloe is glorious for a
single season. It progresses as it never progressed
before. It admires its own excellence, looks back
with pity on its own earlier and humbler condition,
which it attributes only to the unjust restraints in
which it was held. It conceives that it has dis-
covered the true secret of being ' beautiful for
ever,' and in the midst of the discovery it dies."*

I am not of opinion that Democracy must he
short-lived, or even that it must die at all. All
democracies not kiUed by violence have, so far as I
can make out, died, not because they were under

* "Oceana," p. 154.


any necessary law of death, but because they chose
the way of death when they might have chosen that
of life. As so many of them, however, have in the
past chosen the way of death, the way which leads
through disorder to despotism, I fear that many of
them will do the same in the future.

This feeling is not lessened but intensified by the
obvious fact that the friends of Democracy are in
general unconscious of its having now any great
risks to run. The present generation, as the late M.
Cournot has well pointed out, is, in comparison Avith
that which preceded it, somewhat indifferent to
libertv, and ready to endure and impose encroach-
ments on it which promise to be advantageous. This
is due partly to the diffusion among the people of
socialistic principles but partly also to the confidence
that liberty can no longer be seriously endangered.
This confidence is inconsiderate, and itself a serious
danger. The liberty which is thought to be in no
danger is almost always a liberty which is in the
way of being lost. It should be remembered that
Democracies not only may destroy themselves, but
that when once they have entered on " the broad
way," it is naturally less easy for them to retrace
their steps, or even to moderate cheir pace towards
destruction, than for Monarchies or Aristocracies.
Just because they live much more unrestrainedly
and intensely their evils come much more quickly to
a head.

Words which I have elsewhere used when speak-
ing of De Tocqueville's famous work on " Democracy
in America " may here serve to complete my


thought. " A part of the task which De Tocqiie-
ville attempted in that treatise was one which the
human intellect can as yet accomplish with only
very partial success, namely, the forecasting of the
future. Induction from the facts of history is too
dithcult, and deduction from its tendencies too
hypothetical, to allow of this being done with much
certainty or precision; hence it is not to be wondered
at that several of his anticipations or prophecies
have not yet been confirmed, and seem now less
probable than when they were first enunciated. It
is more remarkable that he should have been so
often and so far right ; and that he should have
been always so conscious that he might very possibly
be mistaken ....

" He shared in democi-atic convictions, but with
intelligence and in moderation. He acknowledged
that Democracy at its conceivable best would be the
best of all forms of government ; the one to which
all others ought to give place. And he was fully
persuaded that all others were rapidly making way
for it ; and that the movement towards it, which
had been so visibly going on for at least a century,
could by no means be arrested. He elaborated his
j^roof of the irresistibility and invincibility of the
democratic movement, and he emphasised and
reiterated the conclusion itself, because he deemed
it to be of prime importance that men should be
under no illusion on the matter. He succeeded at
once in getting the truth generally accepted ; and
there has been so much confirmation of it since 1835
that probably no one will now dream of contesting


it. At present Kussia and Turkey are the only
absolute monarchies in Europe, and it seems im-
possible that they should long retain their excep-
tional positions. There is nowhere visible on the
earth in our day any power capable of resisting or
crushing Democracy. If there be none such it does
not follow that it will not be arrested in its pro-
gress ; but it follows that it will only be arrested hy

"That it may be thus arrested De Tocqueville
saw ; that it would be thus arrested he feared.
While sensible of its merits he was also aware of its
defects, and keenly alive to its dangers. While he
recognised that it might possibly be the best of all
governments, he also recognised that it could easily
be the worst, and that it was the most difficult
either to make or to keep good. The chief aim of
his work, indeed, was to demonstrate that Demo-
cracy was in imminent peril of issuing in despotism ;
and that the more thoroughly the democratic spirit
did its work in levelling and destroying social
inequalities and distinctions, just so much the less
resistance would the establishment of Despotism
encounter, while at the same time so much the more
grievous would be its consequences.

"As regards France, his gloomiest forebodings
were realised. She had shown, by the Revolution
of July 1830, that she would submit neither to
autocratic nor to aristocratic government ; and in
1835 she was chafing under plutocratic rule, rapidly
becoming more democratic, and getting largely
imbued with the socialistic spirit which insists not


onl}^ oh equality of rlohts but on equality of con-
ditions. The Guizot Ministry (1840-48), by blindly
and obstinately refusing to grant the most manifestly
just and reasonable demands for electoral reform,
greatly contributed to augment the strength and
violence of the democratic movement, until at lensrth
it overthrew the monarchy, and raised up a republic,
one of the first acts of which was to decree universal
suffrage. But in 1852 the workmen and peasants
of France made use of their votes to confer absolute
power on the author of a shameful and sanguinary
coup d'etat, and C^esarism was acclaimed by
7,482,863 Ayes as against 238,582 Noes. There
could be no more striking exemplification or impres-
sive warning of the liability of Democracy to cast
itself beneath the feet of despotism.

" Yet history, so far as it has gone since De
Tocqueville wrote, has not, on the whole, shown
that Democracy is more than liable thus to err ; has
not tended to prove that it must necessarily or will
certainly thus err. For the last twenty years
France has been organising herself as a democracy
according to the princij^les of constitutional liberty.
America, even while passing through a great war,
gave not the slightest intimations of desire for a
Caesar. Instead of being less there is far more
inequality of conditions in the United States to-day
than there was in 1835. In no other country, in
fact, have such inequalities of wealth been developed
during the last half-century ; and inequality of
wealth necessarily brings with it other kinds of
inequality. In no country is the establishment of a


despotism so improbable. It should be observed,
however, that the only way in which we can con-
ceive of such an event being brought about is one
which would be in accordance with De Tocqueville's
theory. Let the conflict between labour and capital
in America proceed until the labourers attempt to
employ their political power in the expropriation of

Online LibraryRobert FlintSocialism → online text (page 25 of 38)