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mean for thousands of people in their economic existence, but we quail before any radical changes which may be effected in men's religious belief.
But if we can so easily accept the notion that there is no divine sanction in Capitalism, is it any more reasonable to think that the universe will fall apart if similar changes become necessary in our religious notions? The investigation of the origin of our religious ideas and practices will go on as relentlessly as the motions of the planets. It is no longer possible to believe, as it once was, that the sun will stand still at any one's command, nor is it any more likely that the analysis of our “God”, our "salvation”, our
our everything religious, will not continue. They who fear the fullest light on these questions that it is possible to have exhibit an exceedingly doubtful faith.
Furthermore, some people are coming to see that "atheist" is a word that no longer has the meaning which ages of ignorance and persecution gave it. Intellectually, it is or should be obsolete. No mere word--God, salvation, or what not-has any sacredness in itself. Sacredness belongs not to names, but to realities, to facts, qualities, activities, life.
Of course, if one conceives of religion as a something which the individual can have all by himself, like some ecstasy or some personal aesthetic emotion, involving no sense of human solidarity, one need not worry about what socialism will do to it. It is altogether probable that there will be survivals under socialism — possibly capitalistic survivals, to say nothing of superstition in the religious sphere-just as there are vestigial and useless organs in the human body. But if one conceives religion to be a matter of vital interest to the whole race of mankind, a universal and inherent need, one hardly need worry about its future. And if one believes, as some of us do, that religion is a matter of widest and deepest and most fraternal consciousness permeating and glorifying the daily tasks with a feeling of their justice and joy, then one might hail the coming of socialism as one of the richest fulfilments of religion, as some of us now find the service of its truth our noblest employment.
WILLIAM THURSTON BROWN.
Confession of a New Fabian.*
AITH HAS BEEN defined as “the substance
of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” So great is my faith, so substantial the things I have hoped for, so strong the evidence of things I have not seen, that I should require a tolerably comprehensive volume to tell you all about
it. My task to-night must be on a more modest scale. I am really here to offer the apology of a cautious revolutionist. Revolutionist, because Socialist; cautious, because Fabian. And standing here in the Fabian confessional, I will start with a confession. If I had to live over again my twenty years of Socialist service, I should be much more revolutionary and much less cautious.
Looking back on my own past I am conscious of an irreparable loss: I had spent many active years before I realized that Socialism meant far more than mere economic and political change. Thus in my most impressionable period I was blind to the rich colouring, the deeper meaning that can be assimilated by the Socialist who gets near to the inystery of art and of craftsmanship, who in some degree has distinguished pure and undefiled religion from sham religious growths and pretensions. I was cut off from all this in my early years, Socialism presenting itself in almost exclusively political clothing. My own futility as an agitator may largely be ascribed to the narrowing of my horizon to the political aspect. Now if this were a merely personal idiosyncrasy it would be an impertinence to obtrude it upon you, but I cannot help thinking that I was not peculiar in this respect; that I was a child of my age.
It is useless crying over spilt milk, but I often think with shame and chagrin how ineffective our propaganda was, because our eyes had not been opened to the larger vision. And if the dominant note of Socialism to-day is political to the practical exclusion of its deeper implications, does not the responsibility largely rest with that band of young provincial propagandists, of whom I was one, who always stated Socialism in political terms? My memory of that period calls up the most ludicrous attempts to pour Socialism into the Parliamentary mould. Beyond the usual idealistic perorations, our speeches and teachings were conditioned by the question, expressed or implied, "what will the politicians think of it?" Thus I was dominated by political considerations and not by clear thought; the plea for parliamentary practicality constantly stifled my conscience and did violence to my imagination. I now realize that more moral and intellectual courage and less smooth clap-trap about peaceful evolution and a more aggressive assertion of the revolutionary nature of Socialism would by now have broken the old political mould and changed it into a social instrument effective for Socialist purposes. Such was the atmosphere of my formative years. It was a time of intense political activity; of obtuseness to the finer things.
* Before reading this article it will be well to refer to the interesting nose by William English Walling in our “News and Views" Department, in which Mr. Hohson's relation to the socialist movement in England is explained.- Editor.
It is an interesting little speculation whether the born Socialist or the converted Socialist does more for Socialism. To plunge into the movement straight from the days of one's youth has certain advantages and many serious disadvantages. Yet a man may waste many precious years in great travail of spirit before, at long last, he finds sanctuary in the Socialist conception of life. Having reached the happy hourne, he may then become a mighty soldier-or he may carry within him germs of doubt and hesitancy that paralyse his work. The born Socialist suffers from no racking doubts and fears but is probably so voluble and facile, so cock-sure, that he wrestles in vain with the Lord's enemies. I belonged to the cock-sure variety. I have been a Socialist since my school-days. I was, therefore, a Socialist not knowing what Socialism was. It was a stroke of good fortune not to have been affected by evangelical attacks upon my soul. Some of my contemporaries passed sleepless nights in a torment of doubt as to the existence of the British Jehovah. They generally found relief in a book by Professor Drummond. "Natural Law in the Spiritual World." Then they fell asleep in Drummond and were laid to rest in the pews of respectable conventicles. Belonging to a Quaker family, puritanical in the best sense of the word, no effort was spared to make me a young man of God. But thanks to a Socialist schoolmaster, I had been caught up by a new spirit that rendered me immune. Nevertheless I am grateful for an early religious training. Quakerism is in many
anomaly. but its central doctrine of "the inner light" is a rock upon which the religious free-thinkers may rest secure. It is a splendid proclamation that within each of us a light lightens the conscience and is a more certain guide along our way than church formulary, ex-cathedra pronouncement or biblical interpretation.
My Socialist schoolmaster sent me from school at the
age of seventeen with a mind and disposition bent towards Socialism. Under his guidance I had read, with occasional glimmerings of understanding, Smith's “Wealth of Nations”, half-a-dozen of Carlyle's books, and three of Ruskin's"Unto this Last", "The Crown of Wild Olive", and "Munera Pulveris”. And now after twenty years, I quote two passages that so impressed themselves upon my plastic consciousness that they have coloured my life. The one I found in Carlyle's essay on "Signs of the Times"; the other in the “Definitions" in "Munera Pulveris".
"Not the external and physical alone is now managed by machinery, but the internal and spiritual also. Here too nothing follows its spontaneous course, nothing is left to be accomplished by old natural methods. Everything has its cunningly devised implements, its preestablished apparatus: it is not done by hand but by machinery. Thus we have machines for Education: Lancastrian machines; Hamiltonian machines; monitors, maps and emblems. Instruction, that mysterious communing of Wisdom with Ignorance, is no longer an indefinable tentative process, requiring a study of individual aptitudes, and a perpetual variation of means and methods to attain the same end; but a secure, universal, straightforward business to be conducted in the gross, by proper mechanism, with such intellect as comes to hand. Then we have Religious machines of all imaginable varieties; the Bible Society, professing a far higher and heavenly structure, is found, on inquiry, to be altogether an earthly contrivance; supported by collection of moneys, by fomenting of vanities, by puffing intrigue and chicane. It is the same in all other departments. Has any man, or any society of men, a truth to speak, a piece of spiritual work to do; they can nowise proceed at once and with the mere natural organs. but must first call a public meeting, eat a public dinner; in a word, construct or borrow machinery, wherewith to speak it and do it.”
The second passage reads:
"The production of effectual value, therefore, always involves two needs: first, the production of a thing essentially useful; then the production of the capacity to use it. Where the intrinsic value and acceptant capacity come together, there is effectual value, or wealth: where there is either no intrinsic value or no acceptant capacity, there is no effectual value, that is to say no wealth. A horse is no wealth to us if we cannot ride, nor a picture if we cannot see, nor any noble thing be wealth, ercept to a noble person."
As I copy these words, I vividly remember how as a youngster I dimly realized the existence of strange forces and mysteries surrounding the life of the ordinary man, and I had a suspicion that clever men, who saw into these mysteries, were perpetually fooling the ordinary man to the top of his bent. Thus I started the serious work of life with two set ideas: First, an incurable suspicion of all kinds of political and philanthropic machinery; second, that there could be no understanding of wealth and therefore no wealth until we should breed a noble race.
In the days of which I speak, provincial Socialism was largely recruited from Liberalism. And Liberalism was something very weighty and respectable. It was the fag-end of the Gladstonia: period. eary-Victorianism, par excellence, which took a long time a-dying. The young Provincial had no heroes or substitutes for the solemn Whig personalities of Gladstone's circle, and accordingly was shy of the new ideas, innocuous though they were. We were obsessed with the belief that Socialism was in the apostolic succession to Liberalism ; that we must wait patiently until Liberalism had exhausted its mission and that, thereafter, Socialism would take up its Liberal heritage. The Fabian manifesto, "To Your Tents, O Israel!" did much to dissipate this poisonous delusion. I know of no influence amongst Socialists that so weighted our steps as this extraordinary superstition.
I was, of course, like other Socialists, full of delusions. But I strove to reach some definite conclusion to each problem that confronted me, and this, coupled with my suspicion of party organization, kept me tolerably independent of party shibboleths. And I may remark that every conclusion I came to has ever since been subject to daily revision.
My first perplexity remains my last. I quickly understood that Liberal and Tory economics were fundamentally capitalistic. The social and political facts as I saw them entirely precluded any co-operation with Liberalism or Toryism. I had become conscious of a class-struggle. The refusal to recognize the existence of such a thing by certain Socialist leaders and its over-emphasis by others was a fruitful source of mental confusion to my contemporaries and myself. Even yet, many of the differences between Socialist groups spring from divergent views as to the real significance of the class-struggle.
My own conception of the class-struggle may be illustrated in the person of a respectable British mechanic who owns property amounting to (say) 500 pounds Sterling. There are many thousands of such. He is a sturdy tradeunionist working at the bench at the standard wage, his income being supplemented by 25 pounds a vear-5 per cent interest on his 500 pounds. He naturally seeks the highest wage