Robert Flint.

Socialism online

. (page 3 of 38)
Online LibraryRobert FlintSocialism → online text (page 3 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

local insurrections. In Switzerland it has been
extensively advocated by political refugees of various

* I have had occasion to treat at considerable length of Saint-Simon,
Fourier, Louis Blanc, Proudhon, Augusta Comte, and other French
Socialists, in my " Historical Philosophy in France and French Belgium
and Switzerland." Of contemporary French Socialism, MM. Guesde
and Lafargue are typical representatives. A politician like M. Naquet,
and an economist like M. Gide, do not seem to me to be Socialists
properly so-called.

+ On the earlier history of American Socialism, Noyes' " History of
American Socialisms," 1870, gives most information. Of its later history,
the best account is A. Sartorius von Walterhausen's " Der Moderne
Socialismus in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika," 1870. See also
R, T. Ely's " Labour Movement in America," 1886, Ed. and E. Marx-
Aveling's " Labour Movement in America," 1888, and N. P. Gillman's
"Socialism and the American Spirit," 1S93. America has in Henry
George, Laurence Gronland, and Edward Bellamy, three exceptionally
interesting literary representatives of Socialism. Contemporary American
Socialism has been chiefly derived from Germany. Most of its journals
are in the German language. Of the eight •' Chicago Martyrs," five were


nationalities, but with little effect on the native
inhabitants. In Belgium, which has a dense agri-
cultural and manufacturing population, and where
labour is very poorly remunerated, socialistic doc-
trines and schemes are probably more prevalent than
in any other country.

Russia has given birth to a very strange system,
which one always finds classed as Socialism, and
which does not in general protest against being so
regarded — the system called Anarchism or Nihilism.
It is, however, in reality, rather the extreme and
extravaofance of Individualism than a form of
Socialism ; and it is only just not to hold Socialism
responsible either for its principles or its practices.
It is an expression of the intense hatred to authority
which unlimited despotism has engendered in deeply
impressionable minds. It will hear of no authority
in heaven or earth, of no subordination of man to
man, or of man to any recognised moral or spiritual
law. It says : Use all your strength and energy to
level down the whole edifice of society which has
been built up by the labour of ages ; sweep away all
extant institutions so as to produce " perfect amor-
phism," for if any of them be spared they will be-
come the germs out of which the old social iniquities
will spring up again ; break up the nation and the
family, and get rid of the bondage which they in-
volve ; destroy all States and Churches, with all
their regulations and offices, all their obligations

born in Germany, and a sixth, although born in the States, was of German
parentage and education. Only one was a genuine American.


and sanctions ; work towards confusion and chaos,
in the faith that out of them will emerge a future
in which all will breathe with absolute freedom ;
yet take no anxious thought as to the organisation
of the future, for all such thought is evil, as it
hinders destruction pure and simple, and impedes
the progress of the revolution. Such was the creed
of Bakunin, the apostle of Nihilism, a creed which
he was able to spread not only over Russia, but
throughout southern and western Europe, and for
which many men and women have shown themselves
willing to die and ready to murder.

It may, perhaps, seem to be merely the uttermost
extreme of Individualism, and to have nothing
socialistic in it. But extremes meet. When liberty
deofenerates into license, that license is found to be
slavery. So when individuality generates anarchy,
what it first and most assuredly destroys is its own
self. The primary function of government is to
coerce and suppress crime. Abolish government
and crime will govern ; the murderer and the thief
will take the place of the magistrate and the police-
man ; every individuality will count only as a force,
not as a being entitled to rights. Even the Nihilist
cannot quite fail to see this ; cannot altogether ,
refuse to recognise that except as a stage of transi-
tion, a society without government would be in a
more deplorable state than if under the harshest
despotism. Hence he lives in hope that out of the
anarchy which he will produce, organised societies
will spontaneously emerge, in the form of small
agricultural communities, each of which will be self-



governing and self-sufficing, contentedly cultivating
its bit of land, and fairly sharing the produce among
its members.

But he fails to give reasons for his hope. He
does not show that societies ever have been, or are
ever likely to be, organised spontaneously, or other-
wise than through the exercise of authority and the
discipline of law. He does not explain how, were
society overthrown and reduced to chaos, the result
of the interaction of conflicting individual forces
would be the springing up over all the earth of
peaceful self-governing communities. He does not
prove, and cannot prove, that if Europe were
to become somewhat like what Kussia would
be if it had only its mirs, and if the Czar, the
Germans and the Jews, the nobility and the clergy,
the soldiers and police, the fortresses and prisons
were swept away, its condition would be preferable
to what it is at present. He does not indicate how
he purposes to prevent the social world of his hope
and admiration from again lapsing and passing
through all those phases of civilisation which he
detests ; how he would arrest the growth of the
individuality, that is to say, of the indejDendence
of character, the originality of mind, the personal
energy, and the special acquirements and special
skill, which would gradually but surely destroy it,
just as they have destroyed what was like it in the
past, just as they are now destroying the Russian mir.

The ideal of the Nihilist seems to be a very poor
one in itself; and yet there appears to be no way
of realising it except by Nihilists annihilating all


who do not agree with them. Any scheme which
can only be reahsed by men wading through the
blood of their fellow-men should need no discussion.
I have said thus much about Nihilism, because it
is generally regarded as Socialism ; but I shall say
no more about it in these pages. And for two
reasons : first, it is, on the whole, not Socialism ; and
secondly, it is more of a disease than an error, and
should be treated rather by moral remedies than by
aro-uments. Its educated advocates are men and
women who have been maddened by the sight of
the effects of despotic and selfish government ; and
its ignorant believers are largely composed of those
whom hunger, bad usage, and despair, have ren-
dered incapable of weighing reasons. It cannot be
satisfactorily dealt with by logic, and still less by
steel and shot ; but only by better social arrange-
ments, juster laws, a sounder education, a purer and
more energetic morality, a truer and more beneficent

* The theory of Anarchism is advocated with an eloquence worthy of a
better cause in the following pamphlets, all procurable in an English
form : M. Bakunin's "God and the State ; " Elisee Eeclus' " Evolution and
Eevolution;" and P. Krapotkin's " Law and Authority," " Expropriation,"
"Place of Anarchism in Socialistic Evolution," "War," and "Appeal to
the Young." I may quote the words with which Prince Krapotkin closes
his "Law and Authority," inasmuch as they convey the general practical
outcome of Anarchism : — " In the next revolution we hope that this cry
will go forth : ' Burn the guillotines ; demolish the prisons ; drive away
the judges, policemen, and informers— the impurest race upon the face of
the earth ; treat as a brother the man who has been led by passion to do
ill to his fellow ; above all, take from the ignoble products of middle-class
idleness the possibility of displaying their vices in attractive colours ; and
be sure that but few crimes will mar our society.' The main supports of
crime are idleness, law, and authority ; laws about property, laws about


Socialism has nowhere made more remarkable
progress than in Germany. Previous to 1840 it
had scarcely any existence in that country. The
organisation of the German social democratic party
took shape under the hands of Marx and Engels in
1847. The political agitations of 1848 were, on the
whole, favourable to it. The conflict of labour and
capital, which was at its keenest about i860, was
still more so, and is what chiefly explains the
extraordinary success of the socialistic campaign so
brilliantly conducted by Lassalle from 1863 to 1865.
The Socialism of Germany has had more skilful
leaders, and a better organisation, than Socialism
elsewhere. At present it is a power which neither
Church nor State can afford to despise. It would
seem as if every eighth voter were a Socialist.
Socialism is also indebted to German thinkers —
Rodbertus, Winkelblech, Marx, Lassalle, Schaffle,
and others — for its elaboration into a form which
allows it to put forth with plausibility the claim to
have become scientific, and which really entitles it

government, laws about penalties and misdemeanours ; and authority,
which takes upon itself to manufacture these laws and to apply them.
No more laws ! No more judges 1 Liberty, equality, and practical human
sympathy are the only effectual barriers we can oppose to the anti-social
instincts of certain amongst us." Among the most instructive works as to
Anarchism and Socialism in Russia are Thun's " Geschichte der Revo-
lutioniiren Bewegungen in Russland," the most complete work, so far as it
goes, but ending with 1883 ; Anatole Leroy-Beaulieu's " Empire des Tsars";
Stepniak's " Underground Russia " ; and J. Bourdeau's " Le Socialisme
AUemand et le Nihilisme Russe," 1892. On anarchism in general, see
Adler's article " Anarchismus " in Lexis, " Handw. d Staatsw.," vol. i,,
and on so-called "Scientific Anarchism," a paper by H. L. Osgood in
the Folitical /Science Quarterly, March 1889.


to expect that it will no longer be judged of by the
schemes propounded at the earlier stages of its

There is prevalent, however, a very exaggerated
conception of the success of German Socialism. It
is by many supposed to have effected a revolution
in the thinking of German economists, and to have
converted the most of them to its creed. It is very
generally believed that the German professors of
Political Economy have gone largely over to the
socialist camp, and that what are called " Socialists
of the Chair," or " Professorial Socialists," are true
Socialists. This is a mistaken view. Socialism, in
the proper sense of the term, has gained scarcely
any proselytes from among the professors of politi-
cal economy in Germany.

The doctrines of free trade, of unlimited compe-
tition, of the non-intervention of the State, were,
it must be remembered, never so popular among
German as among English political economists ; and
during the last forty years far the largest school of
political economy in Germany, the historical school,
has been bearing a continuous protest against what
is called Smithianism and Manchesterdom, and
English political economy, as insular and narrow,
too negative, too abstract and deductive, and blindly
hopeful of national salvation from leaving every
man to look after himself. German political econo-
mists, in passing from that to their present so-
called socialistic position, have moved neither so
rapidly nor so far as many of our Liberals who have
passed into Radicals, and from being advocates of


freedom and non-interference have become en-
thusiasts for fair rents, State-aid, and State-inter-

The so-called Professorial Socialists of Germany-
have not got farther than our own governmental
politicians. There is a large section of them whose
alleged Socialism is simply the protectionism of
paternal government, the protectionism of Prince
Bismarck, but which that astute statesman naturally
preferred to call his Socialism when he appealed to
socialistic working-men. There is another large
section of them whose so-called Socialism consists
in adopting a programme of political reforms similar
to that which Mr. Chamberlain propounded in this
country in 1885. It may be questioned, how-
ever, if there be one true Socialist among them.
They are simply State-interventionists of either a
Conservative or a Radical type. In calling them-
selves, or allowing themselves to be called. Socialists,
they are sailing under false colours. Their views as
to property, labour, capital, profit, interest, &c., are
essentially different from those of real Socialists.*

* The history of Socialism in Germany is treated of in the works men-
tioned in the note on p. 28. It is right, however, to mention in addition
as exceptionally thorough and valuable studies, W. H. Dawson's " German
Socialism and Ferdinand Lassalle " and " Bismarck and State Socialism."
The best general view of the German schools of political economy is
still, so far as I am aware, an Italian work published eighteen years ago,
Professor Cusumano's " Scuole Economiche della Germania." The term
' Kathedersocialist," Socialist of the Chair, or Professorial Socialist, was
first employed as a nickname, and then accepted by those to whom it was
applied, in the hope that they would thereby secure that Socialism would
not be identified with the sort of doctrine taught by Marx, Lassalle, &c.
M. Leon Say treats of State-Socialism in Germany, as well as in England
and Italy in his " Socialisme d'Etat," 1890. The progress of Socialism ia


It is only in recent years that Socialism has made
any considerable progress in Britain. The socialistic
doctrine of Owen was very vag-ue and nebulous.
The " Christian Socialism " of Maurice and Kings-
ley, Ludlow, Hughes, and Neale, was thoroughly
Christian, but not at all socialistic. The oldest
socialistic association at present existing in England is
the Social Democratic Federation, which was founded
in 1 88 1, but which did not put forth its socialistic
programme until 1883. Its offshoot, the Socialistic
League, was formed in 1884. The Fabian Society
and the Guild of St. Matthew are smaller socialistic
bodies. There are numerous branch associations
throuo-hout the land. The creed of Socialism is
propagated by To-day, Justice, TJie Commomveal,
The Socialist, Freedom, The Cliurch Reformer,
The Christian Socialist, and other periodicals.*
The names of Hyndman, Champion, Joynes, John
Burns, Miss Helen Taylor, Morris, Bax, Dr. and
Mrs. Aveling, Mrs. Besant, Bernard Shaw, and the
E,ev. Stewart Headiam, are widely known as those
of leaders of the various sections of English
Socialists. There are, so far as I am aware, no

Germany from 1871 to 1893 ^^ strikingly manifest in the increase in the
number of deputies -which the party has become able to return to the
Reichstag. The numbers were in 1871 two, in 1874 nine, in 1877 twelve,
in 1878 nine, in 1881 twelve, in 1884 twenty-five, in 1887 eleven, in 1890
thirty-six, and in 1S93 forty-four. The Social Democratic vote at the
Reichstag elections was in 1871, 101,927; in 1874, 351,670; in 1877,
493.447; in 1878. 437>458; in 1S81, 311,961 ; in 1884, 549,000; in 1887,
774,128; in 1890, 1,342,000; and in 1893, 1,800,000 On this subject see
Dawson's "German Socialism and Ferdinand Lassalle," oh. xiv., and the
valuable report of Mr. Geoffrey Drage on Conditions of Labour in Ger-
many — "Royal Commission of Labour," Foreign Reports, vol. v., 1893.
* See Supplementary Note to the present chapter.


reliable statistics as to the number of Socialists in
Britain. In the years of commercial and industrial
depression through which the country has recently
passed, when multitudes were thrown out of employ-
ment and brought to the verge of starvation, the
socialistic propaganda had a kind of success which
filled the minds of many who favoured it with
exaggerated hopes, and those of many who dis-
liked it with equally exaggerated fears. They
fancied that the working classes were about to be
won over as a body to the new faith, and that the
social revolution which had been predicted was at
hand. They overlooked the fact that the movement
advanced with exceptional rapidity only among the
unemployed, and those most affected by the causes
by which that class was so largely Increased ; and
that Socialism must, from its very nature, be far
more likely to spread among those who have nothing
to lose than among those who have, and in bad
times than in good. When honest, sober, industrious
men cannot get work to do and bread to eat, it is
not wonderful that they should turn Socialists ; and
if they do so sympathy is the chief feeling with
which they must be regarded. Men who are not
employed because of their lack of honesty and
sobriety, ought to be otherwise viewed and dealt
with, but they are none the less likely to be easily
persuaded to approve of Socialism either in the form
of Communism or Collectivism.

There is no evidence that British working-men
have to any very great extent gone over to Social-
ism strictly so called. There are no signs of


Socialism having made much progress in this
country during the last three or four years.* But
our comparative immunity in the past Is no
guarantee that there will be Immunity In the
future. And certainly no country in the world
would have so desperate a task devolved upon it
as our own, were Socialism to become either the
creed or the ideal of masses of our population.

No other country has the bulk of its land owned
by so few persons. In no other country is industry
so dependent on the enterprise of large capitalists.
No other country has in anything like so small a
space above one hundred towns each with above
100,000 inhabitants.

The more highly developed, the more elaborately
organised national life becomes, the less fitted, the
less capable, does it become to pass through a social
revolution. Let Britain become, like Athens, the
scene of a struggle between the rich and the poor,
the former striving to keep and the latter to seize
the wealth of the nation ; or iiet the poorer classes
of Britain become like those of Bome, after they had
gained their enfranchisement, weary of the produc-
tion of wealth, and resolved on such a distribution
of it as will give them maintenance and amusement
without labour ; and it will need no foreign enemy
to lay this mighty empire prostrate. In such a case
there could only be in store for us an alternation of
revolutions, a restless tossing between anarchy and

* This statement, it must be noted, refers to the years before 1890. I
am inclined to believe that it has made much more progress during the-
years which have since elapsed.


despotism. In such a state the barbarians would
not require to come from afar for our overthrow ;
the barbarians would be here.

There is much to favour the spread of Socialism
amongst us. Many rich persons make a deplorable
use of their riches — a frivolous, selfish, wasteful,
corrupting use of them. Masses of the people are in
a state of misery and degradation disgraceful to the
nation, and which, if unremedied, must be fruitful
of mischief Our population is so dense, and our
industrial economy so elaborate that a slight cause
may easily j)roduce great disaster and wide dis-
content. The pressure of competition is often very
hard, and many human beings have to labour to an
excess which may well explain the revolt of their
hearts against the arrangements under which they
suifer. The foundations of religious faith have been
so sapped and shaken by various forces, that there
are thousands on thousands in the land devoid of
the strength and steadfastness to be derived from
trust in God and the hope of a world to come. In
consequence of the wide prevalence of practical
materialism, many have no clear recognition of
moral law, of right as right, of the majesty of simple
duty. The balance of political power is now un-
questionably on the side of the majority ; and
although it is just that it should be so, it does not
follow that the majority may not do unjustly, may
not act quite as selfishly as the minority did when
dominant ; while it is evident that there will be
more ready to seek to gain their favour by false
and unmanly ways.


Yet there is nothing to warrant a pessimistic view
of the course of coming events, or despair as to the
future. Tlie resources for good which providence
has placed in the hands of the British people are
immense, and, if faithfully used, they are amply
adequate to avert every danger. Although the
extremes of poverty and wealth in this country be
at an enormous distance from each other, the whole
interval is filled up by classes which pass into one
another by insensible gradations, and which collect-
ively so outnumber either the very rich or the very
poor that at present the chance of success of any
socialistic revolution must be pronounced infini-
tesimally small. The workmen of Great Britain
have never, like the citizens of Greece and Kome,
sought to get free of work, but only to be better paid
for their work. A feelinof of the honourableness
of labour is on the increase. Socialism itself is a
testimony to the growth of the sense of brother-
hood. Faith in God and faith in duty may have
been here and there shaken, but they have not
been uprooted, and are even widely and vigorously
displaying their vitality. Individuality of character
and the love of personal independence will not be
easily vanquished in Britain. It has never been the
character of the nation to adopt vague and revolu-
tionary proposals without criticism of them and con-
sideration of their cost. We may be less exposed to
the dangers of Individualism, and more to those of
Socialism, than we were twenty years ago, but to
be afraid of the speedy and decisive triumph of
Socialism is to be foolishly alarmed.



During the last two years Socialism has continued to be ener-
getically propagated in this country. In London especially the
activity displayed has been extraordinary. The media of pro-
pagandism have been lectures in public halls, open-air meetings,
demonstrations, conferences, pamphlets, periodicals, &c. That
Socialism has during this period made considerable progress
cannot reasonably be doubted. How much progress it has made
cannot apparently be determined. Socialists are not only very
zealous, but very careful to keep themselves en evidence, and apt
to claim to have accomplished more than they have really eflected.
At the same time their influence, I believe, is really great in pro-
portion to their numbers. They have enthusiasm, an ideal, and
popular and devoted leaders.

"What makes it impossible to determine accurately the numbers
or strength of Bi"itish Socialism is that it exists to a far greater
extent in combination with other modes or systems of thought,
than in a separate or pure form. Thus it has amalgamated to
such an extent with Secularism that we now have comparatively
little of the latter in a pure form. We are not, therefore, to sup-
pose that there are fewer Secularists in reality. There are only
fewer in name.* In like manner, Socialism has, although to a
much less extent, entered into unions with Philanthropy,
Spiritualism, and Christianity, from which have arisen small
socialistic sects, with which the main socialistic body has little
sympathy, yet which help to increase the number of real, and
especially of nominal socialists.

It owes far more of its success, however, to having appro-
priated, under the guise of " proximate demands," " measures

* In The National Reformer of March 12th, 1893, the following com-
munication appears : — "At the weekly meeting of the Social Democratic
Federation (North Kensington Branch), on Sunday, 19th ult., Mr. St. John
(National Secular Society) delivered an anti-Christian lecture, calling
attention to the danger to advanced movements from persons of the
•Christian-Socialist 'type. In the course of the discussion which followed,
each speaker declared himself an Atheist, and supported the lecturer's con-
tention, urging that the time had arrived to endeavour to purge the Socialist

Online LibraryRobert FlintSocialism → online text (page 3 of 38)