Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

as a source of moral strength and joy in life. To base the whole principle of human life, with all the serious issues it involves, on chance plus cunning is as it should be; to speculate, as an occasional pastime, a few shillings “ upon the hazard of a die' is a terrible evil to be promptly dealt with by drastic legislation. While it is wicked to play a game of chance as an occasional episode in life, it is right to treat life itself as a game (Dr. Crozier himself calls it the " game of life''), so at least says the bourgeois moralist of the Nonconformist persuasion. Not only does Dr. Crozier, like many of his predecessors in the task of finding fault with Socialism, read present conditions into a Socialist society, but he sets himself to depict certain evils which are the conspicuous and inevitable results of present-day competitive society--the dead-level of sordidness, the "scraping together the few odd shillings," broken-up family life, &c.--and then, if he will pardon me for saying so, by an astounding piece of controversial “ bluff,” attempts to saddle them on to a Socialist Society of his own imagining.

But if we examine the main drift of Dr. Crozier's dread of what he terms the “dead-level of economic equality,” we shall find that this consists not so much in the fear lest he himself should not get enough of the good things of this life, as in the dislike of the "other fellow" having the same advantages with regard to them as himself. That the fecundity of economic production under Socialism cannot fail to provide, not merely à sufficiency but an abundance for each and all, I have already pointed out. But this, I fear, would not satisfy some of the critics of Socialism, Dr. Crozier among them. It matters not that they might have within their reach enough to satisfy all their reasonable requirements; they would not be happy, or at least they think they would not, without the knowledge that others were worse off than themselves, without the consciousness that others were suffering from the want of those things which subserved their own necessities and happiness in life. In a word, if we may believe their own report about themselves, their objection to Socialism rests upon the most brutal and unqualified form of egoism, on the confession that complete self-satisfaction is impossible unless accompanied by a sense of economic inequality, i.e. of the suffering of others. Now this strikes me as about the rawest and crudest exemplification of that so often misapplied and misused concept--selfishness--which it would be possible to imagine. In fact, so crass in their brutality do the words of these critics strike me that I am loath to "believe their own report about themselves," and am inclined to take their protests in the light of a dialectical device to cover up the hollowness of their case. However this may be, I cannot think that the views

in this sense expressed by them would be openly admitted by any considerable section of “human nature" even as it is at present, and would certainly not appeal to the “under dog," to wit, thu proletarian masses.

Once again let me point out that the inequality and the scramble for wealth which is the essence of competitive conditions, so far from furnishing an incentive to the best human endeavour, is wholly and solely productive of demoralised and bad work. To place even genius in the position to give the world of its best, the present accursed incentive of immoderate material gain must be removed. This it is which is the breeding-ground of all that is trashy and worthless in literature, in music, in the plastic arts, and in all the higher departments of human activity. The man who has something to give the world worth having feels he must give it even though he suffer materially the while. The charlatan who has nothing of worth to give, and even the genius who has yielded to the temptation to sell his birthright for the economic mess of pottage by pandering to passing and usually depraved public taste, work naught but corruption and degradation. In the case of the latter, indeed, mankind is a positive loser, since genius is perverted by the prospect of material gain from its true function to the production of trash.

Of course, we are treated in this latest attack on Socialism to suggestions as to the tyranny and coercion the “Socialist State" would exercise over the individual. Of the tyranny exercised to-day by the possessors of capital over the non-possessing classes, nothing is said. The tyranny imposed by the directive power of a Socialist Society would at most amount to the obligation of every average man to contribute a limited portion of his time to the carrying on, in some form or shape, of the necessary work of the world, by which true liberty would be ensured to all. Socialism means the administration of things, in contradistinction to our present civilisation, which means the coercion of men. The present state implies coercion in the interests, direct or indirect, of private property, all round. The ethical basis, which is the motive power of the movement for economical and political reconstruction, may be found in the motto of the old revolutionaries of the eighteenth century“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” It is, however, pregnant with a new content. The sense in which the earlier revolutionary took it has proved itself illusory, but its ethical significance none the less remains. The conditions of Capitalism themselves suffice to do the coercion in the economic sphere, but there are other forms of coercion of men in what Mill called "self-regarding actions," which the State still exercises directly. It coerces men, in many cases by military service, to fight its battles with

other States. This, again, is the result of the desire of each national State system to get the better of its neighbour, and of them all to enslave and plunder the savage and barbaric peoples of the earth in the pursuit of new commercial outlets and of fresh fields for the capitalistic exploitation of natural resources. Modern wars invariably take their origin in commercial or colonial rivalry. Again, in the purely personal relation of marriage, the existing State claims rights over the individual. Yet again, in the matter of religion it is, as a rule, bound up with, and favours, some form of the dogmatic Christian creed, which implies the coercion in various ways of the individual intelligence. Now Socialism stands for liberty in all these things. It stands for equal rights for all nationalities, and for the freedom of weak and backward peoples to pursue their own life and to develop in their own way uncoerced from without. It would free the individual from the obligation to take up arms in defence of the capitalist interests of the class-State to which he happens to belong. With the sentiment of patriotism or its opposite as a mere private emotion it has nothing to do. It would free marriage from coercive laws having their origin in property relations or in superstitious beliefs, while in no way dogmatising on the form which the institution of marriage and the family will take in the future or as to what is the best form. In this respect Socialism is no more opposed, as is sometimes represented, to the principle of life-long monogamy than it is to less stringent forms of the sexual relation. What it is opposed to is coercion, either by law or public opinion, of the individual in such a selfregarding matter. The question of children rests, of course, on a different basis, and ought to be dealt with separately. Similarly with theological beliefs and religious cults. Socialism claims à secular and scientifically up-to-date education for every child and young person. It would not prevent any citizen from amusing himself with, or persuading himself he believes in, Christian theology, Buddhist theosophy, or any other theory concerning the supernatural. But a Socialist polity, as such, would undoubtedly maintain a rigidly secular attitude showing no favour or affection for priestcraft, and for dogma claiming supernatural sanctions, in any of their forms.

To conclude, I think I have said enough to indicate the Socialist's grounds for believing that under Socialism for the first time in history the individual will have the opportunity of real freedom, of real self-development, an opportunity he can never possess under the dead level of sordid struggle which characterises the Capitalist society in which we live.

E. BELFORT Bax.

THE

SEX-DISABILITY AND ADULT SUFFRAGE.

[ocr errors]

THERE is a pre-disposition among us in Britain to disregard the claims of co-ordination in politics, and to judge of any legislative enactment, not by the principle it establishes, nor by its relation to other measures with which it should form a symmetrical whole, but merely by its immediate practical results. This is demonstrated by our many existing legal anomalies, as well as by the chaotic and piecemeal character of ordinary political programmes and performances.

The political position of women is one of the anomalies, and the outlook of the average politician upon the claim of women for enfranchisement exhibits the national tendency to judge of every political proposal from the point of view of present expediency. In the popular mind the points at issue apparently are : Which women would be enfranchised if a particular measure were passed, and how they would use the votes thus won. Perhaps the names adopted by the societies concerned with the agitation for the removal of the sex-bar in politics have contributed to this result. Either “ The Society for Equal Voting Rights," or The Political Sex-Equality Society," conveys a clearer idea of the principle which women seek to establish than does the orthodox title of any suffrage body. The lines of propaganda usually followed have served also to strengthen the existing bias, and to secure undue attention for the non-essential and accidental aspects of the women's case. Similarly, the present cry of “Votes for Women," which has many recommendations as a catchword, leaves much to be inferred and explained.

As a result of these agencies, misconceptions have existed, and still exist, in the public mind. But within the ranks of those seeking sex-equality there has always been a sufficient number of clear-sighted women by whom the essential principle has been kept in view. They have voiced the demand that qualified persons shall always vote because they are qualified, and that the sex of the person shall be immaterial. They have claimed that the law which is blind to sex in the matter of taxation shall be equally blind to sex in regard to its accompanying rights. From the first organisation of the Suffrage movement in 1867 they have based their claim upon the fundamental principle of sex-equality, and through their efforts the central idea of the agitation has always been, not so much to get a greater or less number of votes

[ocr errors]

for women, as to win for the whole sex a political status equal with that of man.

Such a recognition of the principle of equal citizenship would naturally involve the immediate registration of all qualified women. This would be the first practical result. But the principle from which it followed could not be measured logically by the number or kind of women affected by the first application. Matters outside the scope of the principle at stake and accidental to it would determine the number and kind of these first women voters. But much more vital things would be secured by the establishment of equal voting rights. Women would rise at once to the status of free human beings, those who were not actual being potential citizens. Their status as free women would make it impossible for any qualified citizen of the future to be excluded on the ground of sex from the full rights of citizenship. All later political liberties would come to women simultaneously with men by the automatic application of the same general statutes. It is this certainty of equal status and future freedom that women need, and only by the statutory enunciation of the principle of sexequality can it be secured.

So well has this position been understood that all attempts made in the past to establish "Fancy Franchises” for women have been frustrated. Such franchises, it is recognised, resting on no principle of equal rights, but on the favour of those who still remain politically superior, are neither honourable nor permanent. The principle is always greater than the possession or use of the symbol it bestows. When the symbol of political power is held only by the gracious permission of a master-class, and not by admitted right, it becomes but a mockery of freedom. A franchise based on the contradiction involved in any such proposal might be worse for women than that they should continue voteless. Carefully analysed, all suggestions for franchises that exist on favour are found to come from biased minds or from the motives of Party or private interest. The possession of votes is of advantage to any section of the community, but votes that could be taken away at the will of the master would be valueless. At those very crises in which they were most required they would be withdrawn. Women thus enfranchised would only retain their votes so long as they showed no sign of independence. The only certain salvation of women lies in the granting of the claim that the rights, like the duties and burdens, of citizenship shall be apportioned without regard to sex, and that this shall be done as a matter of right.

Looking beyond the arguments of expediency and immediate advantage, Women Suffragists have directed their energies

« AnteriorContinuar »