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theory. I am content, however, to leave it uncriti-
cised. It could not be left altogether unindicated.

Socialism also sacrifices personal to social morality.
It ascribes to the conduct and habits of individuals
no moral character in themselves, but only so far as
they affect the happiness of society. It sees in the
personal virtues no intrinsic value, but only such
value as they may have when they happen to be
advantageous to the community. Utilitarianism

Karl Pearson, "The Ethic of Free Thought," pp. 31S-9.


tended to induce this sort of moral blindness, and
some of its advocates \vent far in the direction of
thus doing injustice to the personal virtues. But
Socialism errs in the same way uniformly and more
strenuously, i^eccat fortiter. And it is not difficult
to see why.

Socialism naturally bases its moral doctrine on
utilitarianism, on altruistic hedonism : naturally
assumes that the sole aim of mankind is happiness
in this life, the happiness of society ; and that virtue
is what furthers and vice what hinders this aim. It
tends, therefore, as all altruistic hedonism does to
identify " right " and " wrong " with social and
anti-social; to conclude that there would be no
morality at all if men did not require the sympathy
and help of their fellow- men ; and so to merge
private in public ethics.

Further, Socialism is carried towards the same
result by holding that morality is merely a product
of social development, or, as Marx said of Capital,
"an historical category." It represents economic
factors as the roots of human culture, and morals as
only a portion of its fruits ; the material conditions
of society as the causes which determine social
growth, and the civilisation which has thence re-
sulted as the source of all the ethical perceptions,
feelings, and actions now in the world. It still, as in
the days of Owen and Saint -Simon, traces character
to circumstances ; believes in the almost boundless
power of education ; depreciates the reality, persis-
tency, and efficacy of the operation of moral forces
in the life and history of mankind ; and looks at


spiritual processes through the obscuring and falsify-
ing medium of a superficial empiricism. Hence it
overlooks fundamental ethical factors ; fails to recog-
nise that history is just as much a moral creation as
morality is an historical production ; and does not
see that were there no specifically personal virtue
there would be no genuinely social virtue.

The chief reason of the socialist view has yet to be
given. Socialism of its very nature so absorbs the
individual in society as to sacrifice his rights to its
authority. This is its difierential feature. Where the
individual is fully recognised to be an end in himself, a
true moral acr-ent entitled and bound to strive after his
own highest self-realisation, independently of any
authority but that of Him of whose nature and will
the moral law is the expression, there can be no real
Socialism. In Social Democracy we have a some-
what highly developed form of Socialism, although
one which finds it convenient to be either silent or
ambiguous on essential points where the necessity of
choosing between slavery and freedom so j^resents
itself that it cannot safely pronounce for the former
and cannot consistently pronounce for the latter.
It demands that society should be so organised that
every man will have his assigned place and allotted
work, the duration of his labour fixed and his share
of the collective produce determined. It denies to
the individual any rights independent of society ;
and assigns to society authority to do whatever it
deems for its own good with the persons, faculties,
and possessions of individuals. It undertakes to
relieve individuals of what are manifestly their own


moral responsibilities, and proposes to deprive them
of the means of fulfilling- them. It would place the
masses of mankind completely at the mercy of a
comparatively small and highly centralised body of
organisers and administrators entrusted with such
powers as no human hands can safely or righteously

Such a doctrine as this is even more monstrous
when looked at from a moral than from an economic
or a political point of view. It Is above all the
moral personality which it outrages and would
destroy. It makes man —

" An offering, or a sacrifice, a tool
Or implement, a passive thing employed
As a brute mean ; ''

and nothing

" Can follow for a rational soul
Perverted thus, but weakness in all good,
And strength in evil."

On this point the following words of a very acute
and thoughtful w^rlter will convey my conviction
better than any which I could frame of my own.
" A State Collectivism in w^ilch the unqualified
conception of an ' organism ' logically lands us, bv
restraining the free activity of each self-conscious
personality, strikes not only at the liberty of the
citizen in the vulgar acceptance of the term 'liberty,'
but cuts off at the fountain-head the spring of the
entire spiritual life of man. It is profoundly im-
moral ; for, with free activity must perish all that
distinguishes man from animal, and all must go in
religion, philosophy, literature, and art by which
human life has been exalted and dignified. If these


things still held a place in the life of the race it
would be as a dim tradition of happier epochs. It
has not been the race as a collective body which has
created literature, and art, and religion — no, not
even political institutions and laws — but great
personalities, in presence of whose genius the mass
bowed the head in submission or acquiescence. An
organised and consistent Collectivism would, like an
absolute paternal despotism, be the grave of dis-
tinctive humanity." ^

Men would wholly belie their manhood if they
submitted to such a system. It is one which can
only be accepted by a senseless and servile herd of
beings unworthy of the name of men. Only a
slavish heart will yield to society the obedience
which is claimed. Only a man without either living
faith in God or a real sense of duty will so set
society in God's place or so conform to whatever it
may decree as Collectivism expects. Society is
mortal ; men are immortal. Society exists for the
sake of men ; men do not exist for the sake of
society. Men are primarily under obligation to
God ; only secondarily to society. The laws of
society are laws only in so far as they are in ac-
cordance with right reason. When they are contrar}''
to divine and eternal law they can bind no one.
An unjust law, as Thomas Aquinas has said, is not
law at all, but only a species of violence.

When acting within its proper sphere, society,
organised as the State or Nation, may, in certain

* S. S. Laurie, " Ethica,"' p. 227.


circumstances and for good reason shown, exact
from its members the greatest sacrifices. If invaded
by a foreign enemy it may without scruple send
every man who is capable of bearing arms to the
battle-field or draw to exhaustion on the resources
of its richest citizens in order to enable it to repel
the common foe. But it has no ricrht to dictate to
any of its members what they shall do for a living,
so long as they can make an honest living for them-
selves ; and if it so dictate it has no right to
expect from them obedience, and should receive
none. If society enacts that certain individuals
shall labour either unreasonably many or unreason-
ably few hours a day, those with whose freedom it
thus interferes will act a patriotic part if they set
its decree at defiance and brave the consequences
of so doing. If it attempts to take from tliem arbi-
trarily and without compensation property justly
earned or legitimately acquired, they will do well
to resist to the utmost such socialistic tyranny and
spoliation, whatever be the penalties thereby
incurred It is only by acting in this spirit that
the rights of individuals have been won ; it is
only by readiness to act in it that they will be re-
tained. It is only when this spirit of personal
independence based on personal responsibility, of
the direct relationship of the individual as a moral
being to the moral law and its author, has become
extinct that a logically developed Socialism can be
established ; and where it is extinct all true morality
will be so likewise.

The reason why Socialism thus comes so grievously


into conflict with morality is none other than its
root-idea, its generative error — a false conception
of the relation of individuals to society.

A true conception of the relation must be neither
individualistic nor socialistic.

It must not be individualistic. Society is not
merely the creation of individuals, or a means
to their self- development ; it is further so far
the very condition of their being, and the medium
in which they live materially, intellectually, and
morally. While the individual has natural rights
independent of society and as against society, these
are not rights which imply " a state of nature "
anterior to society, but rights grounded in the con-
stitution of human nature itself There are no
personal duties wholly without social references.
The mere individual, the individual entirely ab-
stracted from society, is a pure abstraction, a non-
entity. The individualistic view of the relation of
man to society is, therefore, thoroughly false.

Not more so, however, than the socialistic view.
It in no way follows that because the individual man
exists in and by society he is related to it only as
chemical elements are related to the compounds
which they build up, or as cells to organisms, or as
the members of an animal body to the whole. Man
is not so related to society, for the simple reason that
he is a person, a free and moral being, or, in other
words, a being whose law and end are in himself, and
who can never be treated as a mere means either for
the accomplishment of the will of a higher being or
for the advantage of society without the perpetration


of moral wrong, without desecrating the most sacred
of all things on earth, the personality of the human
soul. With reference to the ultimate end of life man
is not made for society but society for man. Hence
the sacrifice of the individual to society whicli
Socialism would make is not a lemtimate sacrifice
but a presumptuous sacrilege.*

Now all this bears directly on the pretensions of
Socialism to be a solution of the social question. It
proves that these pretensions are largely mere pre-
tensions — false pretensions. The social question is
mainly a moral question ; and the key to every
moral question is only to be found in the state of
heart of individuals, in goodness or badness of will.
The kinoi-dom of heaven on earth does not beo'in in
the world without, but works outwards from the
heart within. It can be based on no other founda-

* " The term ' orgatism,' useful as it is, is not applicable to the State at
all save in ii metaphorical way. An organism is a complex of atoms sucli
that each atom has a life of its own, but a life so controlled as to be wholly
subject to the ' idea' of the complex, which complex is the total 'thing'
before us. Each part contributes to the whole, and the idea of the whole
subsumes the parts into itself with a view to a specific result, andean omit
no part. As regards such an organism we can say that no part has anr
significance except in so far as it contributes to the resultant whole, which
is the specific complex individnum. It is at once apparent that this fur-
nishes an analogy which aids and may determine our conception of an
harmonious State, just as it docs of an harmonious man. But it is at best
an analogy merely

" Unlike the atoms of a true organism, it has to be pointed out that
the atoms of society are individual, free, self-conscious Egos, which set-k
each its own completion — its oivn completion, I repeat, through and by

means of the whole These free atoms have a certain constitution

and certain potencies which bring them into a specific relationship to
their environment, including in that environment other free atoms. It is
that independent constitution and these potencies which, seeking their
own fulfilment as vital parts of the organic spiritual whole which we call


tion than the moral renovation of individuals — the
metanoia of John the Baptist and the precepts of
the Sermon on the Mount. The great bulk of human
misery is due not to social arrangements but to
personal vices. It is unjust to lay the blame of the
sufferings caused by indolence, improvidence, drunk-
enness, licentiousness, and the like, chiefly on the
faulty arrangements of society, instead of on the evil
dispositions of those who exemplify these qualities
or habits. Society may not be indirectly or wholly
guiltless in the matter ; but those who are directly
and mainly guilty are, in general, the individuals
who involve themselves and others in misery through
shirking duty and yielding to base seductions. The
socialistic teaching which studiously refrains from
offending the lazy loafer, " the wicked and slothful
servant," the drunkard whose self-indulgence is the

•A man, find the whole world, including other persons, to be only an occa-
sion and opportunity of self-fulfilment ; and on these it has to seize if it
would be itself. Brought by the necessity of its own nature into commu-
nities of like Egos, each gradually finds the conditions whereby its life
as an individual can be best fulfilled. It is the law of tlieir inner activity
as beings of reason, of desire, and of emotion, which gradually becomes
the external law which we call political constitutions, positive statute, and
social usage. Thus generalised and externalised, the 'relations of persons '
become an entity of thought, but this abstract entity exists only in so far
as it exists in each person. To this generalisation of ends and relations
we may fitly enough apply the word and notion ' organism,' for the meta-
phorical expression here, as in many other fields of intellectual acti\ity,
helps us to realise the whole. But we have to beware of the tyranny of

phrases The Ego does not exist for what is called the ' objective

will," but the reverse. So far from the 'atom,' the self-conscious Ego,
having significance only in so far as it contributes to the organism, the so-
called organism has ultimate significance only in so far as it exists for
the free Ego. The ' organic ' conception, if accepted in an unqualified
sense, would reduce all individuals to slavery, and all personal ethics to
slavish obedience to existing law." — S. S. Laurie, " Ethica," pp. 209-12.


sole cause of his poverty, the coarse sensuahst who
brings on himself disease and destitution, and the
like ; and which even encourao-es them to resfard
themselves not as sinners but as sinned against, the
badly used victims of a badly constituted society :
this teaching, I say, is the most erroneous, the least
honest or feithful, and the least likely to be effective
and beneficial that can be conceived.*

Let us pass on to the consideration of the relation-
ship of Socialism to Social Morality. Here I shall
say nothing of the moral life of the family, domestic
ethics, although Socialism is notoriously very vulner-

* The corresponding individualistic error would be that social en-
vironment has no influence or but slight influence on individual char-
acter. As we reject Individualism equally with Socialism, we have
naturally no sympathy with this error. It is obviously inconsistent with
facts. The characters of men are to a large extent affected by their
material and moral surroundings. As the physical medium may be such
es to poison and destroy instead of strengthening and developing the
physical life, so may it be as regards the moral medium and the moral
life. Endeavours after the personal improvement of those who are placed
in circumstances unfavourable thereto should be accompanied by attempts
at modifying the circumstances. To hope to do much good to those who
are condemned to live amidst physically and morally foul conditions by
so individualistic a method as merely distributing religious tracts among
them is To refuse to aid in modifying these conditions for the
better on the plea that those so situated ought "to reform themselves"
must be merely pharisaical pretence.

Prof. Marshall (" Principles of Economics," vol. i. ]). 64) perhaps credits
Socialists somewhat too generously with having shown the importance in
economic investigations of an adequate recognition of the jdiahiliti/ oflmuKin
viiture. Should this merit not rather be ascribed to the Economists of the
Historical School ? Is the contribution of Karl Marx, f jr example, to the
proof or the relativity of economic ideas and systems not very slight indeed
in comparison with that of Wilhelm Roscher ? Nay, has the form r in this
connection done much mort than exaggerate, and distort and discolour with
materialism — i.e., metaphyics — the historic and scientific truth set forth by
the latter?


able at this point. I have touched on it, however,
in chapter viii., and I refrain from returning to it.

Sociahsm is morally strongest in its recognition of
the great principle of human brotherhood. In all its
forms it professes belief in the truth of the idea of
fraternity. It proclaims that men are brethren, and
bound to act as such ; that they are so members one
of another that each should seek not only his own good
but the good of others, and, so far as it is within his
power to further it, the good of all. It vigorously
condemns two of the greatest plagues which have
scourged humanity: war and the oppression of the
poor and feeble ; and it glorifies two of the things
which most honour and advantage humanity : labour
and sympathy with those who are in poor circum-
stances and humble situations. Its spirit is directly
and strongly opposed to that which ruled when war
was deemed the chief business of human life, and
when the laws of nations were made by and on
behalf of a privileged few ; it is a spirit which
recoofnises that the work which man has to do on
earth ought to be accomplished chiefly through
brotherly co-operation, and that society cannot too
earnestly occupy itself with the task of amelio-
ratinsf the condition of the class the most numerous
and indigent.

There we have what is noblest and best in
Socialism; what has made it attractive to many
men of g-ood and srenerous natures. Thus far it is
the embodiment and exponent of truth, justice, and
charity ; great in conception, admirable in character,
and beneficent in tendency. Were Socialism only


this, and wholly this, its spirit would be identical
with tliat of true morality, as well as of pure
religion, and every human being ought to be a

But Socialism is much else besides this, and often
very difterent from this. It often directly con-
tradicts the principle, and grievously contravenes
the spirit, of brotherhood ; often appeals to motives
and passions, and excites to conduct and actions,
the most unbrotherly. As yet it has done little
directly, little of its own proper self, to propagate
the spirit of brotherhood, and to spread peace or
goodwill or happiness among men. As yet it has
led chiefly to hatred and strife, violence and blood-
shed, waste and misery ; and only occasioned good
by convincing those who are opposed to it of the
necessity of seeking true remedies for the evils
which it exhibits but also intensifies. The leaders of
Socialism have largely acquired their power by
appealing not to the reasons and consciences, but
to the envy, the cupidity, and the class prejudices
of those whom they have sought to gain to their
views. The power which they have thus obtained
has undoubtedly been formidable ; but the respon-
sibility which they have incurred has also been

Let us not be misunderstood. We blame no man
for stirring up the poor to seek by all reasonable
and lawful means the betterment of their condition ;
nor for agitating in any honourable way to make
the community or the Government realise the duty
and urgency of solicitude for the wellbeing of the


labouring population ; nor for exposing whatever
seems to him oppression or injustice on the part of
capitalists ; nor for taking an active part in re-
sisting the selfish demands of employers, or in sup-
porting the just claims of workmen, so long as in
his ways of doing so he does not contravene any
principle of morality. We fully admit that by all
such action the spirit of brotherhood is not violated
but exemplified, even when the action may give
much offence to those who are in the wrong, and to
those who sympathise with them. But we are
morally bound to condemn those who strive to
create discontent and division among men, and to
foster and excite the spirit of social disorder, by
flattering certain classes and calumniating others,
or by appealing to envy and covetousness. And,
unfortunately, it is impossible to exonerate Socialists
from the charge of having done this to a deplorable
extent. In every country where Socialism is preva-
lent, abundant proof of the charge is to be found
in the speeches of its acknowledged leaders, in the
articles of its party periodicals, and in the actions
of its adherents.

That Socialism should have thus been so unfaith-
ful to its profession of belief in fraternity has been
the necessary consequence of its aiming mainly to
secure class advantages, to further party interests.
It has persistently represented the solution of the
social question as only to be obtained through a
triumph of what it calls the fourth estate, similar to
that which the third estate gained in France by the
revolution which at the close of last century


abolished the absolute control of an individual
will, and swept away the unjust privileges of the
nobles and clergy. By this victory the Third
Estate is represented as having gained for itself
political supremacy, wealth, and comfort. But, we
are told that, while it has been prospering, another
estate has been rapidly growing up under its
regime, and rapidly increasing in numbers and in
wretchedness ; and that this Fourth Estate is now
rapidly rising all over the world against the rule of
the third estate, as that estate rose in France
against monarchical despotism and the domination
of the two higher estates ; that is demanding its
full share of enjoyment, wealth, and power ; and
is resolved so to reorganise the constitution and
administration of society as to give effect to its will.*
This description of the social situation is very
inaccurate and mlsleadlncj-. There is no Fourth
Estate at present in any of the more advanced
nations of the world in the sense In which there
was a Third Estate in France before the Bevolution.

* In a paper entitled "La Pr^tendue Antinoraie de Bourgeoisie et de
Peuple dans nos Institutions Politiques " (published in the " Compte Rendu
des Seances et Travaux de I'Acad, d. Sciences Morales et Politiques,"
Aout, 1893), ^- Doniol has made an interesting contribution to the
history of the imaginary distinction between hourgeohie and peuple. It
originated in the use of the designation la bourr/eoisie de 1830 as a party
nickname. Jean Reynaud (in the art. " Bourgeoisie '" in the " Encjclopddie
Nouvelle," 1837) employed the term bourgeoisie to denote those whom
Saint-Simon had termed " free " in the sense of being " above want." The
notion that the terms bourgeoisie and peuple denote a real antinomy of
' classes " or " estates " was raised into a theory and popularised by Louis
Blanc's "Histoire de Dix Ans" and " Histoire de la Revolution Fran^aise''
(torn. i.). The only semblance of foundation for it was the existence of a
property qualification for voting.


The victory of the Third Estate, in France as every-
where else, was a victory over privilege, not the
transference of privilege to itself The rights which
it gained were " the rights of man," and were
gained for all men. Its victory destroyed " estates"
in the old sense, and removed the foundations on
which any such new estate can be raised.

The putting forward of the claims of a Fourth
Estate in the socialistic fashion necessarily implies a
proposal to undo the work which the Third Estate

Online LibraryRobert FlintSocialism → online text (page 28 of 38)