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World," by Henry Olerich, an American writer, is an excellent exposition of an extreme form of what he calls co-operative individualism, which is really voluntary socialism; and I may here state for the benefit of those ignorant writers who believe that socialism must be compulsory, and speak of it as a “form of slavery,” that my own definition of socialism is "the voluntary organization of labour for the good of all.” All the best and most thoughtful writers on socialism agree in this; and for my own part I cannot conceive it coming about in any other way. Compulsory socialism is to me a contradiction in terms—as much so as would be compulsory friendship. The only modern work I have met with that advocates compulsion in initiating socialism is Mr. F. W. Hayes's “Great Revolution of 1905," a very clever book, but hopelessly out of tune with the socialist ideal by the ruthless compulsion and punishment of the opponents of the supposed social revolution.
Among books which deal rather with the evils of the present system than with constructive socialism, but which nevertheless give eloquent expression to its fundamental ideas and aspirations, I may mention “Darkness and Dawn, the Peaceful Birth of a New Age”-an anonymous work which, in its terrible description of the horrors of the factory system in all its forms and ramifications, is unsurpassed in our language ; and Robert Blatchford's “Merrie England,” issued first at a shilling, then at fourpence, then at a penny, and of which three quarters of a million copies were sold in about a year.
But the most complete and thoroughly reasoned exposition, both of the philosophy and the constructive methods of socialism, is to be found in Bellamy's later work, “ Equality,” which comparatively few, even of English socialists, are acquainted with. The book is a sequel to “Looking Back ward," and contains more than twice the matter. It shows, systematically, how our existing system of competition and individual profit-capitalism and enormous private wealth, directly lead to overwork, poverty, starvation, and crime ; that it is necessarily wasteful in production and cruelly
unjust in distribution; that it fosters every kind of adulteration in manufacture, and almost necessitates lying in trade; that it involves the virtual slavery of the bulk of the population, and checks or destroys any real progress of the race.
It also shows how, even the wealthy few, and also the members of each successive grade of comparative wellbeing, suffer from it socially, by the extreme restriction in each locality of possible intimate associates and friends; it shows how we can never attain to the maximum benefits and enjoyment of social intercourse without that absolute equality of economic condition, educational opportunities, and social conventions, which alone put us at ease with our fellow-men; while the enormous loss to all of us of the infinite varieties of character, ability, and even genius, now forbidden any adequate development by the cruel struggle for existence and the shortened lives, are clearly set forth. And as every one of the wasteful and cruel and debasing influences of our competitive system will cease to exist under a rational socialism, labour will be diminished to an almost inconceivable extent, while every possible enjoyment of nature, of art, and of congenial friendship will be indefinitely increased. Until these two works of Bellamy have been carefully read and thoroughly appreciated, no one can properly realize what such a state of society means; while to any one who has done so, the stock objections to socialism will be seen to be utterly trivial and absurd.
One of the most striking and convincing chapters in “ Equality” is that which describes the means by which, after a majority were in favour of it, and a Socialist Government had been elected, the great change was brought about, and, without any compulsion whatever, was soon welcomed and accepted by the adverse minority. This method is so simple, and so little known, that it may be well to give a brief outline of it here.
It is assumed that, before this period, there had already been a great extension of governmental and municipal industry, all the railways and mines, telegrams and telephones being worked by the former; all water, gas, electric
light and power, trams, etc., by the latter. The employees in these, together with all persons connected with the courts, the police, the revenue, and other Government offices, with their families, would comprise a population of several million persons paid by and dependent on general or local governments. The first important step taken is the opening of Government stores to supply all these persons with food, clothing, and other necessaries of life at cost price, and of the best quality, absolutely free from adulteration, just as Robert Owen did for his people at New Lanark. As the numbers to be supplied would be exactly known, as no advertisements would be needed beyond simple price-lists, and as there need be no attractive shops in great thoroughfares at high rents, these necessaries could always be supplied at 25 per cent., and often at 50 per cent. below actual retail prices of the time. Robert Owen at New Lanark, with the comparatively small population of 2500 people, was able to supply goods of similar character at about 30 per cent. below shop prices. As this would be equivalent to an increase of earnings by all these employees, all other socialists, whose votes had brought the Government into power, asked for similar benefits, which were, of course, given them. Then an extension was made to the manufacture of the most important articles, such as metal goods of all kinds, china and glass, all the commoner textile fabrics, furniture, house-building, etc., so that in the course of a few years every necessary and comfort of life would be obtainable by all socialists at the Government stores, at low prices and of the very best quality. At the same time, the health of all these employees would be safeguarded by every available sanitary appliance and rule ; hours of work would be shortened in proportion to the fatigue or the monotony of the labour, and everything possible would be done to make the worker's life a healthy and enjoyable one. And as all these things would be done at their own expense, since all the products of labour would be sold at the price they cost to make and distribute, the nonsocialists could not possibly complain, as they would not be called upon to bear any of the expense, but would have to
go on purchasing the adulterated and costly products of private competition and capitalism as before.
Is it not a fair supposition which Bellamy makes, that at this stage of progress all the workers, all the wage-earners and employees of the private capitalists would beg to be taken into Government employment so as to share in the well-being of their socialist fellow-workmen? The result would be that, gradually and successively, all industry would become organized under the local authorities in co-operation with the various central stores and manufactories. During this process of extension private capitalists would find it more and more difficult to obtain skilled labour of any kind. They would then find that their former boasted “capital” was not the chief factor in the production of wealth ; that though they might have money, they would not possess wealth. The Government stores would, of course, be used by socialists only, by means of a system of tickets or paper money, as described by Bellamy; capitalists and their managers would gradually have to join the socialist ranks as organizers or superintendents if they had the capacity, or if they preferred to live idle lives they might go to other countries where the competitive régime still prevailed. It may, of course, be said that this would not succeed ; that the Government could not compete with private capitalists, manufacturers, and shopkeepers. But few people who really think of the matter will believe this. The American Trusts do succeed in competition with the whole world, because they possess some of the advantages a Government would possess in a still greater degree. But they result in small traders beggared and workers no longer wanted, and in the production of a hundred or more of multi-millionaires. If a socialist régime cannot, in the nature of things, succeed, why are all the great capitalists so dreadfully afraid of allowing any approach to a fair trial of it by municipalities or other local authorities?
After much consideration, however, I have come to the conclusion that this will not (probably) be the way in which socialism will come about in England, and that it would not be the easiest or the best way. I think it more likely that
we shall pass through a stage of true “individualism," in which complete "equality of opportunity” will be established. I have sufficiently explained this in my “Studies," vol. ii. chap. xxviii.; and if to this we add the broad scheme of general education outlined by Mr. John Richardson in his admirable little book, "How it can be done,” we shall have prepared the way for the rational society of the future. Equality of opportunity is, as Herbert Spencer has shown in his “ Justice," the correlative of natural selection in human society, and has thus a broad foundation in the laws of nature. But Spencer himself did not follow out his principles to their logical conclusion as I have done.
Many good people to-day who are almost horror-struck at hearing that any one they know is a socialist, would be still more amazed if they knew how many of the very salt of the earth belong (or did belong) to this despised and much dreaded body of thinkers. Grant Allen, one of the most intellectual and many-sided men of our time, was one of us; so is Sir Oliver Lodge, one of our foremost students of physical science; and Professor Karl Pearson, a great mathematical evolutionist. Among the clergy we have the Revs. John Clifford, R. C. Fillingham, and many others among the Christian socialists, who are as much socialists as any of us. Among men of university training or of high literary ability we have H. M. Hyndman, Edward Carpenter, J. A. Hobson, Sydney Webb, Hubert Bland, H. S. Salt, J. C. Kenworthy, Morrison-Davidson, and many others. Of poets there are Gerald Massey and Sir Lewis Morris. The labour members of Parliament are almost all socialists; while Margaret Macmillan, the Countess of Warwick, and many less known women are earnest workers for the cause.
I should almost think that Mrs. Humphry Ward was a socialist at heart or as an ideal, or she could not have set forth its principles and the arguments for it so well as she has done in “Marcella." But the weak and illogical conclusion of that and some other books caused me to write to Grant Allen, urging him to write a thorough socialistic story,