The Socialist's Church

Chapter IV: On the Emancipation of the Middle-Class Wage Slave.

When speaking of the social value and influence of the Sacraments, it was pointed out that Baptism was the great Sacrament of Equality, that in it we claimed every baby born into the world as equal with every other baby' making no difference between the child of a costermonger and the child of a Prince; that the Sects which are essentially exclusive wait for conversion or election or proof of goodness, while the Church, which is essentially inclusive, claims every child simply because it is a human being, as a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor -- a present inheritor and not merely a future heir -- of the Kingdom of Heaven. Now the bearing of this democratic Sacrament on Socialism has been generally taken as indicating that opportunity and wealth, both material and spiritual, should be shared, that the great mass of the common people should claim their rights in the Church, that neither an aristocracy nor a plutocracy should be tolerated. But although this is so, this Sacrament is also a warning against another danger which is hindering the progress of Socialism -- the danger of exalting the working class above the other workers who do not belong to the working "class." Properly speaking, the workers are not a class at all, but the great mass of the community upon whom those who arfe not workers depend for their very existence; but, as popularly understood, there is a real working class with class privileges and distinctions which are as much opposed to Socialism as the privileges and distinctions of other classes. And the coming of a Labour Party into Parliament before the Socialist Party has got there makes it all the more important to be on our guard against these class privileges. That party is doing most valuable work, and its victories at the last Election constituted a little revolution. But though it is true that the majority of its members are personally Socialists, still the party itself is not Socialist, and is largely dependent upon Trades Unions, which, if the new legislation has been found by the next election to have really wiped out "Taff Vale," will be as likely as not, not even to vote "Labourist" next time. The Trades Unions last year wanted to remedy a speial evil from which they were suffering, and took the course which they held the most conducive to that end -- and quite rightl; but Socialism is concerned with the industrial well-being of the whole community, and not merely of those working men who are Trades Unionists, and its progress will be delayed unless you can convince each section of the community that it would benefit by it.

Labourism, for instance, is an unnecessary challenge to the middle classes, who stand to gain largely by Socialism, but who for the most part do not know this, and who think they are attacking Socialism, while really what they are attacking is class legislation in the interests of "Labour." Now you can appeal to the middle classes, especially to the sons and daughters of the middle classes, to become Socialists by arousing their compassion for the poor, the sweated, the unemployed; and you can appeal to them by showing them how much better, how much securer, their own position would be under Socialism than it is at present; but you alienate them when you appear to be encouraging special legislation in the interests of those working men who are by no means poor. Why, for instance, should special trains and special trams be provided for compositors and engineers and not for clerks and teachers? why should there be special arrangements for housing carpenters and not curates? shy should the County Council give free education in the elementary and not also in the secondary schools? Why, speaking generally, should the black-coated working man, tghe professional man, the salaried man, be driven by class legislation into the camp of the monopolist, who is really their enemy as much as he is the enemy of the "horny-handed son of toil"? We still hear a good deal from the speakers of the Social Democratic Federation about the clear-cut class conscious Socialist; but if this phrase is to be a reality, then the teacher, the clerk, the shopkeeper, the farmer, the artist, the doctor must be recognised as belonging to the same class as the labourer, the ploughman, the builder, the painter, the plumber, the miner, the spinner, the weaver. And so too with the women: the barmaid, the typist, the dancer, the actress, the clerk, are in the same class with the factory worker, the tailoress, the dressmaker, and, what is more important to remember, all of them together are in the same class with the men workers, and all are concerned in preventing a mere men's Trades Union working class Labourism taking the place of Socialism.

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Even in the case of the great captains of industry, the organisers, the discoverers, in so far as they are not shareholders; they are really in the same boat with the workmen: in many cases they would do better as the salaried officials of the Municipality or the State, in all cases they too are being robbed by the monopolists.

It seems a pity that there should not be a determined effort to convert what are roughly called the Middle Classes to Socialism, when you can appeal not only to their sense of Justice and their pity, as you point out to them the evil social conditions under which the poor live, but when you can also appeal to them on the ground of their self-interest. And as a matter of fact these middle classes may soon find themselves ousted. "There is plenty of room at the top" is a favourite saying of those Bureaucratic Educationalists who would make more of Scholarships than Schools, and tell the young man and young woman how to climb the ladder; but as the children of the working class climb that ladder in greater numbers, the rent of ability will decrease, and a different set of people will enjoy it. But further, when, instead of an inconvenient scholarship ladder, you have got a fairly smooth inclined plane; when you get an Education Authority which thinks more of schools than it does of scholarships; when the parents of England are as were those of Scotland, and the lads and the girls, instead of leaving school at fourteen and overcrowding the labour market, are allowed to stay on at school till seventeen or eighteen, then again the rent of ability will decrease and a different kind of person will enjoy it.

An effort to prevent this is foreshadowed by a "White Paper" lately issued by the Board of Education, in which the suggestion is made that we must be careful not to educate the elementary school child above his station; must assume that unless he is a scholarship winner he will be in the future in the same class of life as his father, and school him accordingly. So sinister a policy could only have been suggested, under a Liberal Government, by the influence of a bureaucratic permanent official taking advantage of the pre-occupation of the Minister; it is to be hoped that, if Education Authorities attempt to act on this policy, means will be taken to thwart them. The Church Catechism, which recognises that the child can be called from one state of life t another, contains sounder Socialist teaching than this report of the consultative Committee on Higher Elementary Schools. What is wanted is that the schooling should be humane and general, training the intelligence, firing the imagination, forming the character, leaving the technical training for any particular trade or occupation to come afterwards. The People's Schools -- and it is important to remember that the 1870 Act was not passed in order to give a poor education to the children of the poor; it was for the people, not the poor that the Act was passed -- these People's Schools should, notwithstanding the Board of Education, aim at educating the children above their station. They cannot, with all their scholarships, alter the economic conditions which Socialism aims at altering, though they can to some degree reduce the children of the middle class to the place suited to their ability, and raise the children of the working class to the place suited to their ability, both alike continuing wage-slaves, though the kind of work assigned to each may be changed; but though they cannot alter economic conditions, what they can do -- and the Socialists should see that they do it -- is to make the young people, as they grow up, thoroughly discontented with the evil conditions which surround them. This is what the great School Boards did, and we are reaping the advantage by the presence in an increasing number in our large towns of people fairly well-educated and thoroughly discontented; it is of such stuff that legal, orderly, social revolutions are made.

In view of the time, therefore, when there is no longer plenty of room on the top, when th navvy can demand a higher salary than the teacher, when the rent of ability has gone down, and the ability of the manual labourer has increased, it would be well for the Socialists to spend a good deal of time on the conversion of the middle class, so that they may be the readier to work with those whose interest is really identical with theirs, and against those to whom they have been in the habit of attaching themselves, in bringing about the socialisation of the rent of the land, the monopoly of which at present hinders the growth of the rent of ability. It is only, then, by using the word "worker" in its fullest sense, by dissociating it from what is popularly meant by the "working classes" and by making it mean all those who with brain or hand are producing something adequate in return for what they consume, that we can rightly appeal to the workers to be Socialists. The Church's teaching is quite clear about this: in the Church Catechism, without distinction of class or sex, each one is taught that it is his duty to learn and labour truly to get his own living; he has to give back in return for what he himself consumes -- not something which his ancestors have produced, but something which he has produced himself, and so the true classification of Sociaty is not so much Matthew Arnold's, a materialised upper class, a vulgarised middle class, a brutalised lower class (what a change, by the way, a quarter of a century of devoted School Board teachers have wrought in this latter!), but John Ruskin's, into Beggars, Robbers, and Workers; the workers being all those who are not libing on the charity of others, or preying on the hard-won earnings of others -- all those, in fact, who are not living on rent or interest -- unless indeed those who are so living are of their own accord conferring a benefit on the community equal to the rent or interest they get from the community.

It was stated just now that one danger from allowing Labourism finally to take the place of Socialism, from treating the Labour Party as anything more that a temporary arrangement pending the formation of a Socialist Party, was lest the claims of the women workers should be overlooked, lest when, if ever, the claims of women came into collision with claims of men, women would get the worst of it. The fact that, at present, women have not yet had imposed upon them by the State the duty of voting for the members of Parliament would be likely to intensify the evil. It is one reason for imposing that duty on women that it would be possible even under Socialism for their industrial condition to be inferior to that of man. But though all those who, by promoting and joining women's Trades Unions, and by working for Women's Suffrage, and by insisting that the adult woman shall be put on the same level as the adult man, are doing valuable work, it seems important to remember that the duty of women to learn and labour truly to get their own living, the withdrawing of them from the category of Beggars or Robbers, is done whenever women are bearing or rearing children; while they are doing that they are taking more than their full share of the work of the world, and should be relieved of the duty, though perhaps not deprived of the right of taking part in industrial work also. This much must at any rate be admitted; but it may as well be acknowledged that the details of this question cannot be fairly tackled under our present industrial system, and that, as far as one can see, even when the aims of the Socialists have been accomplished, there may be still some difficult sex questions let unsolved.

When, then, the Socialists having convinced themselves that the principles and basis of the Christian Church in this country are entirely on their side, and having further found out that it is only popular misrepresentations of the Church's doctrines which have caused intellectual and moral difficulties to be raised in the way of their becoming outward conscious members of the Church, and when they have found out that it is, to say the least of it, waste of power for them to attempt to start a CHurch of their won -- when thus convinced, they begin to capture the Church, they will find themselves in a Society which knows no class distinction, and which will insist that their Socialism shall be Democratic Socialism. The wire-pulling gentlemen at the Bureau, the mere Labourist, the man who refuses equality to women, will be but partially satisfied. But the Social Democrat will be quite at home. And, finding himself at home and in such good company, he will become mellowed and more powerful for the great revolution than he is at present.

It is evident that throughout this Essay, by the Church has been meant the historic Church, founded in this country in very early times, and reintroduced into this nation by St. Augustine, which survived the "Reformation," and which repudiates the assumption of any foreign Bishop, however honourable, to dominate its people; other Churches may have equal rights to make the same claims on the allegiance of Socialists, but of them the writer of this Essay has no right to speak.

No pretence has been made to claim that, as at present forced upon the people, any very large number of the officers of the Church are thoroughly alive to the full meaning of its documents. Socialists have been treated as intelligent men, who judge of a Society by the rightness of its principles, not by the faults of its members. But Socialists, too, ar very human, and if even a remnant of the Church's Ministers will be true to their calling, they will do more to bring about an alliance between the Church and Socialism than any arguments can do. It rests, to a large degree, with the living members and ministers of the Church to settle whether the extraordinary revival in Religion shall be centered and become strong in the Church, or wander wastefully away.

There is no excuse for the Socialists and Social Reformers if, on account of the iniquities of the Bishops and the follies of the Patron-appointed Clergy, they refuse to capture the Church, whose principles are all for Socialism: there is no excuse, on the other hand, for the Bishops and Clergy if they allow the Patrons and the Plutocrats to make them false to the ideals which they were ordained and consecrated to maintain: above all, there is no excuse for Churchmen and Socialists if they refuse to co-operate with all men of good will, whether they call themselves Churchmen or Socialists, or whether they are merely members of the great Common People, in bringing about such Socialist legislation as is possible during the next seven years. The message of the Church to all these is: "Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another?"

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