The Socialist's Church


Chapter III: On the Limitations and the Aim of Socialism.

The contention is that one main function of the Christian Church is to carry out the principles of Socialism, that the Church is intended to be a great instrument for Social Reform, that it is essentially a Society for promotion of Righteousness; that Socialists should capture it, and make it conscious of itself and of its proper aims; and further, that there is nothing in the Church's dogmas and doctrines to prevent any Socialists who really think the matter out for themselves, who are not intellectually lazy and inert, from doing this. Socialists are free now to enter into their heritage. The three great robberies from the people may now be stopped; the Education of the People will soon be in the People's hands; the land values, the result of the People's work, will soon be taken out of the hands of those who have monopolised them; and the Church, for so long regarded as the Church of the Classes, should be claimed as the Church of the People.

In order to bring this about there need be no cheapening or minimising of the creeds of Christendom, and no abating of the demands of Socialism. What is wanted is that Churchmen should be forced to face the first principles of their Churchmanship and reject the superstitions, and that Socialists should emphasise both the importance and limitation of their demands.

For, owing to the divorce of Socialism from the Church, there has grown up among some Socialists to exalt Socialism itself into a kind of religion, and to maintain that it contains in itself a reasoned theory and philosophy of life.

It cannot therefore be too emphatically stated that Socialism has but one end in view -- the establishment of a righteous industrial and material condition; when the people are properly clothed, fed, and housed, then the objects of Socialism will be accomplished. It is quite true that in order to bring about this, Religion of the best sort is necessary; it is quite true that life is intolerable -- or should be intolerable -- for all, while so many are not properly clothed, fed, and housed; but it is equally true that man does not live by bread alone, and that when these material conditions are made right, then we shall only begin to live. Endless confusion has been caused and an abundant prejudice created against Socialism by Socialists as such interfering with matters which do not concern them as Socialists, and talking as if they could tackle the evils of certain modern institutions without first accomplishing their industrial revolution.

For instance, Socialism has nothing, one way or the other, to do with Marriage. It may be quite true, as has been said, that under our present competitive system of industry it is difficult to make either a good chair or a good marriage, but this simply means that the economic dependence of the woman on the man, or of the chair-maker on the capitalist, is disastrous. But Marriage itself cannot conveniently be Socialised, while Chair-making might be. What is known as "Free Love," which is probably neither "free" nor "love," may be right or may be wrong; but whether right or wrong, it has nothing whatever to do with Socialism, which simply aims at the tremendous revolution of getting the great means of production out of the hands of the Monopolists into the hands of the People.

On the other hand, as against the doctrinaire Socialists who advocate Free Love, who in their private life are generally absolutely blameless, though they lead their feather-headed followers into many inconveniences -- there has arisen in Socialist ranks a theory of the strict State regulation of Marriage. It need not be here discussed whether this is right or wrong -- for anyhow it has nothing to do with Socialism. The theory finds favour with those bureaucrats who are hardly worthy of the name of Socialists, and it shelters itself under the fine-sounding phrase of the Endowment of Motherhood. It has received a kind of endorsement from the Times. But it is at present a vague phrase, and nothing more. We are not told whether all mothers are to be endowed, and if not, what mothers; whether the State is to select, on account of their heredity and environment, certain mothers and give them its imprimatur, or whether, regardless of these conditions, the mere fact of motherhood -- without any regard to fatherhood -- is to be honoured. The question leads to numerous and most interesting considerations, but they are not considerations which Socialists as such need concern themselves with; when Socialism is established, when all are porperly clothed, fed, and housed, it is possible that these questions may settle themselves. It is possible also that they may still want serious consideration; but they will then be considered by the people themselves -- including the fathers and mothers -- who will be living under righteous industrial conditions; they will not be settled for them by the bureaucratic experts who (without experience) would settle how the human race should be bred. It is perhaps difficult to touch on these matters without suggesting preferences; but the contention here is that, whether right or wrong with reference to the relations of sex, neither the free-lover nor the stud-farm breeder is in any way the concern of the Socialist; he has other humbler but quite essential work to do -- he has to make righteous the indistrial condition of the people. He may dream as he likes as to what will then be accomplished, he may even dream that the Sacrament of Marriage will be again revived; but before he dreams he must act, and he has a right to resnt the action of those who profess and call themselves Socialists prejudicing the Industrial Revolution and delaying its accomplishment by extraneous proposals.

And the essential vice of these proposals is the essential vice of much that passes under the name of Socialism, and which is the main cause of opposition to it. It is the notion that Socialism consists in regulating and licensing and managing the lives of the people by a set of bureaucrats in a condition of Society in which industrial slavery still exists. Whereas true Socialism wants to abolish the slavery, to break down the monopoly under which no one can work except with the permission and under the conditions laid down by the owners of the means of production -- and then, having done that, to leave men free. In speaking of the Mass -- the one great Christian Service -- as being just the Service in which the Socialists would find religious satisfaction, it was pointed out that, under its name the Lord's Supper, it was the great service of emancipation; freedom, expansion, self-expression, individuality, that is what the Lord's Supper bears witness to and that is what Socialism aims at. All these negations -- you mustn't be a barmaid, you mustn't drink, you mustn't play games in your parks on Sundays -- are no part of Socialism. The Factory Acts, valuable and necessary in our present anarchic condition, are no part of Socialism; they are only temporary expedients to make things a little better for the wage-slaves until wage-slavery is abolished by the abolition of the monopoly in the means of production. To treat these things as part of Socialism is to fog the issue; to honour overmuch the people who make much of them, unless they are at the same time frankly and openly acknowledging that they are but temporary expedients, unless they are at the same time frankly and openly working for genuine Socialism, is dangerous in the last degree; they are really of very little more value than the charitable office of those who are sitting on the backs of the people, or than the cottages let by landlords below the market value. A landlord, like Lord Penrhyn, who insists to the full on the rights we have foolishly given him, is in the long run doing more for the amelioration of the people than the whole body of bureaucrats who profane the great name of Socialism.

These men, whose ideal is the multiplication of licenses and inspectors, may be doing valuable work, but they are not thereby doing anything for Socialism, and in some respects they are causing prejudices against it. On the other hand, while these official interferences with the lives of the people, these restrictions of individual liberty (each of which must be judged on its merits) are in no sense Socialism, nor the beginnings of Socialism, the ownership and management by the State or Municipality of certain great industries and enterprises -- what has contemptuously been termed Gas and Water Socialism -- is genuine Socialism as far as it goes, and will probably still be necessary when the ideal of Socialism has been reached. Municipal Socialism, the collective ownership by a definite community of Gas, Water, Trams, Electricity, and, indeed, of all industries which can conveniently be owned collectively -- this is all to the good, and the power of Municipalities in this matter should be largely increased. For instance, notwithstanding those who say that Drink is so great an evil that neither individual nor Public Body should touch it, it would doubtless prove to be the strongest stroke ever struck for Temperance if the County Councils were empowered to have their own public-houses. Such collective ownership and management would be a piece of genuine Socialism. a Municipal Theatre and a Municipal Music Hall come well within the same lines.

But what has to be remembered is that all this collective ownership and management is not the main thing, and, while the main thing is left untouched you will never get the full benefit which you expect from collective ownership and management; this is why certain Municipalities which have gone well ahead in doing all they legally can do in this direction are sometimes pointed at with scorn both by Socialists and by the upholders of Private Trusts, with the taunt, "If that: -- it is generally Glasgow which is referred to -- "if that is the Mecca of Socialism, so much the worse for Socialism;" but there can be no Mecca of Socialism until the main thing at which Socialism aims has been accomplished. And the main thing at which Socialism aims is that the great means of production shall be in the hands of the whole community, and therefore shall be taken out of the hands of private individuals. And the main means of production is undoubtedly the land. Until, therefore, the whole community gets absolute ownership and control of the land, the aims of Socialism cannot be attained. Bureaucratic interference will not satisfy them, and may delay them; the collective ownership of industrial enterprises is good so far as it goes, but until the Land question is tackled the evils of poverty will remain. Here the economic and religious positions are identical, and those who are whole-hearted Socialists will find their position in the Church stronger than those who are mere official restrictors of individual liberty.

For those who are keenest in the assertion of their belief in God have every reason for being keenest in maintaining that the land is for the people. That great Library of classical literature which we call the Library, has done more than any other literature to keep alive in men's minds the idea of God, to suggest to them that the only explanation of the secrets of their personal, social, and national life if to be found in the belief that there is a Righteous Being at work on men. Now this literature is full of suggestions on the Land question; it was the belief of the Hebrews that it was God and not the tyrants of Egypt who created the Earth. For that, of course, is the meaning of that old story in the Book of Genesis; it does not teach a doctrine of special, sudden creation against a doctrine of creation by evolution, but it taught the horde of slaves who has struck against their masters, that, by whatever processes the world was created, the tyrants of Egypt had nothing to do with them. Again, the same men believed that the earth is the Lord's, and therefore not the landlord's. And a study of the Hebrew polity shows that careful arrangements were made, by the Jubilee laws especially, to deal righteously with the land, to see that the whole community enjoyed its value. Further, if we go right through their history, remembering that a prophet is not a foreteller but a forth-teller -- not a predictor of the future but a leader of the present -- it will be found that the great Hebrew prophets are full of righteous indignation against the social evils which were the result of land monopoly.

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With such ideas in their mind, the mere chance sayings of the great Apostles of Christ become full of meaning to help Churchmen to be Socialists and Socialists Churchmen. "He that ploweth should plow in hope." "The husbandman that laboureth should be the first to partake of the fruits." The cry of the reapers who have been defrauded of their wages enters into the ears of the God who fights. "Let the robber rob no more, but rather let him labour." "The labourer is worthy of his reward." "We command that if any would not work, neither should he eat."

It was with the stimulus which came from considerations of this sort, in an atmosphere this made favourable, with a belief that the Kingdom of Heaven is to be established on earth, that premature death is an un-Christian monstrosity, that human life by Christ's Incarnation is proved to be sacred and beautiful -- with ideas like these, and in an atmosphere like this, some men and women, followers of F. D. Maurice and of the Christian Socialists of 1850, began in the late seventies to dream dreams and see visions, began to think that the time might come in England when the people should be properly clothed, fed, and housed, and be able to lead full, delightful human lives.

And then a man came along who helped us to understand how our aspirations might be realised. The Hebrew way of putting would be "there was a man sent from God whose name was Henry George." The stimulus he gave to Socialism cannot be over-estimated, and it makes no matter that he did not use the name, and that some Socialists repudiated him. His strength and influence is due to the fact that he went right down to root principles. He said, "Land is the mother and Labour is the father of all wealth." He felt that the divorce of labour from land was fatal to the commonwealth. Th those who short-sightedly, but, at the time, naturally, talked as if the capitalists and the manufacturers were the chief enemies of the workers, he showed how they too would fall into their proper place if the Land question was tackled. He said in his easy, vernacular way, "If you've got the cow, you've got the milk; so if you've got the land, you've got the capital." To the wilder talkers about bloodshed, who thought that a physical force revolution might make things all right one Monday morning; to those who talked about bloodshed, and so turned men's attention away from committees and voting, he daid, "You need not kick the landlords out." To the timid people who talked about confiscation and fobbery, without knowing what confiscation meant, or that it was the people who had been robbed, he said, "You must not buy the landlords out." And to all of us he showed the peaceful and just method -- gradual, legal, to come as tghe result of long, steady, quiet work on committees, by means of lectures and literature, converting votes, converting members of Parliament -- to all of us he said, "You had better tax the landlords out."

He shows, too, how social inequalities, with all their evils of snobbery, class distinction, vulgar competitions -- people buying not what they know to be useful or believe to be beautiful, but buying things simply because other people had got them -- he showed how vulgarities and impertinences, this division into classes, materialised, vulgarised, brutalised, would tend to disappear when the monopoly of the great means of production disappeared; clinching it all by quoting the Indian proverb -- "White parasols and elephants mad with pride are the result of a grant of land."

But, above all, to the Malthusians, to those -- and there were many -- who were tied and bound with the chains of that false economy, who thought that Nature was niggardly; to those whose motto was, "No God, no King, and, at least for the present, as few people as possible" -- to those, indeed, Henry George spoke a liberating word. He set them free by those four chapters in his second book of "Progress and Poverty," the most emancipating of all. "Man cannot press against the limits of his subsistence until the limits of the globe are reached."

There is a call now for more babies; but the Church and the Nation are reaping the inevitable results of the "prudence" which used to be preached to the poor, when our teachers were in the bonds of the Malthusian dilemma. More babies, by all means; but unless Labour and Land are married these babies will grow up into mere wage-slaves. But when Labour and Land are married, the standard of comfort will be raised, grinding poverty will disappear, wealth will be distributed; and then these things will settle themselves. There may still be Eugenic or domestic reasons for small families, but there will be no economic reasons against big ones.

During the historic autumn in Trafalgar Square, these ideals were concentrated in the last resolution which the police allowed to be moved in the Square -- "That the land of every country belongs of natural and inalienable right to the whole body of the people in each generation; that the main cause of poverty both in the agricultural districts and in the great centres of population is the fact that the land, which ought to be the common property of all, is now monopolised by a few, and that therefore if you want to cut at the root of poverty instead of merely alleviating its symptoms, you must work to restore to the people the whole vale of which they give to the land, to get for the people complete control over the land, and, to that end, see to it immediately that those who use land pay for the use of it to its rightful owners -- the People."

Thus the prophets of Socialism have been at work -- telling forth the truth, bubbling over with enthusiasm -- and the result is that the practical politicians are at last beginning to be alive to it.

The Bureaucrats and the Collectivists have to some degree led the more hasty spirits away from this fundamental revolutionary proposal: anxious to do something in a hurry, they have not always stopped to consider whether the something they proposed was an instalment of the right thing or a mere philanthropic palliative; whether indeed in the long run it might not do more harm than good; or whether the good it would do would not under the present system be all absorbed by the owners of the land. But the Socialists, most of whom in this country owe much of their vigour to Henry George's inspiration, and the immediate followers of Henry George, who do not call themselves Socialists, all agree in this, that the land must be socialised. And what the great majority of voters are beginning to see is that a small instalment, a beginning of desirable reform, is more important than anything else, more important than bureaucratic interference, even more important than collective trading. And so a proposal so mild as the following comes into the firs rank of political importance --

"That Land values should be assessed separately; that it should be found out what these values are, apart from houses, factories, farm buildings, crops, improvements, but including, of course, the minerals and metals and stones, precious or other, under the land.

"That such Land values should be the subject for taxation both in towns and in the country.

"That this should be done both for national and local purposes."

Legislation along these lines would be a genuine piece of Socialism, and could be extended when the people wanted it to the taking of the whole of the land values which the people create for the benefit of the people themselves.

When, then, it is asserted that the principles of the Church are favourable to Socialism, it is not meant that the Church looks forward to the State ceasing to take cognisance of marriage or to the State regulating marriages, and taking over the families; it is not meant that the Church advocates constant interference with personal life and conduct; it is not meant that the Church hold that even municipal trading is of supreme importance: what is meant is that it is the duty of the Church to go to the very root of the evil of poverty and abolish the private property in the means of production, which, while it lasts, decrees that no one can work except under conditions laid down by the owners.

It was necessary thus to make the material basis of Socialism clear, to make it plain that it is the bodily, every-day, secular needs of men -- the feeding, clothing, housing -- which would be supplied under it; because men who have no Religion and are looking round for one, who have not yet found their way into the Church, and beginning to talk as if Socialism itself could be their religion, and therefore, of course, are bringing into it all sorts of ideas which have nothing whatever to do with it, to the exclusion or the forgetting of its very simple but very important principle.

It is an essential part of the teaching of the Christian Church that the evils of poverty should be abolished; modern knowledge shows that these evils can only be abolished by "Socialism"; therefore the whole force of Religion should be turned toward the establishment of Socialism. But Socialism is not in itself a religion, and one main reason why the Christian Religion longs for the accomplishment of Socialism is in order to give to all time and freedom from anxiety so that they may be able to think out first principles, and have the opportunity for living full and free lives, in which, among other things, Worship and Theology will play their own part.

It has been calculated that if all took their fair share in that part of the work of the world which is necessary to subdue Nature to the human good, and if all worked with full strength and energy, producing for common use and not for private profit, all the material needs of the community could be well met by four or five hours' work a day. When those material needs were supplied, Socialism would have done its work, and Individualism, which has been so thoroughly suppressed under our modern competitive system, would at last assert itself: we should then get much more freedom; there would then be an abundance of leisure for physical, moral, and spiritual development. "The soul of man under Socialism" would be able to expand; the sordid conditions caused by poverty, the vulgar conditions caused by riches gained at the cost of the poor, the heartbreaking cause by the compassion of the tender for evil conditions they cannot alter, the callousness caused by the determination of the few to enjoy themselves at the expense of the many -- these things would disappear, and the soul of man would be able to expand, the body would become beautiful, and disease and premature death would be conquered. But religion, a healthy religion, the Christian Church with its beauty and discipline, would not only still be necessary, but would only then be able to go forward triumphantly. Socialism as a religion would not be enough because it would only deal with that small portion of human life which was necessary to satisfy material wants; but outside that, human passions, human appetitutes, intellectual ambitions, spiritual adventures, research, study, the whole world of art would remain: men would want inspiring and stimulating and disciplining in these matters; the knowledge of God making for righteousness would remain, the ideals of Jesus Christ would remain, the inspiration of the Holy Ghost would remain. And the Society to make all this vital would remain; and sin would remain. At present we are so obsessed by the sins which cause poverty and the poverty which causes sin; so much wrong-doing and misery is caused by the contrast between the rich and the poor, and by the persistence of wage-slavery and one-sided competition, that we may be pardoned if we think that sin will cease if poverty ceases, if industrial conditions are made reasonable. But is is evident that it will not be so; that indeed just because our whole life will be more intense and the joy of living more real, it will be the more important not to miss the mark, to walk in the right way, to submit ourselves to the Will of God. And so we may as well clearly understand from the beginning that, though the establishment and maintenance of righteous industrial conditions by means of what is called Socialism is one important part of the Church's work, it is only one part of it, and that work will continue when that part is accomplished.

However, these prophetic remarks are only indulged in order to try to save us from the founding of yet one more Church, or Sect, or Religion: to suggest that the abolition of the evils of competitive industry, great as they are, are not the only evils which a Church has to encounter -- that the Church of Christ is founded to conquer them, and others; and that in the Church of Christ the Socialist ideal, as well as much which will only come to the front when Socialism is established, will find satisfaction.

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