Wednesday, 11 March 2015

WHAT SOCIALISM MEANS.

TO THE EDITOR OF THE HERALD.

Sir,-In dealing with the subject of socialism one of the greatest difficulties which beset the inquirer as to what socialism means is to find any writer or thinker who is accepted by a majority of socialists as an authority on the subject, and whose decision they are prepared to accept. There is, however, one man who stands out head and shoulders above all living authorities on the subject, and whose name is now known the world over, viz., Herr August Bebel. Bebel is the accepted leader of the Socialist Democratic party in the German Imperial Parliament, and may be regarded as the high priest and acknowledged representative of the socialists of our day. His authority then, is one which is not to be lightly questioned, and his opinions may be legitimately quoted as fairly representing the views of the great body of socialists. If he cannot be accepted as an authority on the subject, then who can?

We are liable, of course, to be met at once by the objection that Bebel is a German socialist, but surely that is not a valid objection, seeing that socialism has made greater progress in Germany than anywhere else in the world, and it is, therefore natural to look to Germany for a definition as to what socialism really is. Bebel himself, dealing with this, says:-"Germany has taken up the role of leader in this titanic struggle of the future. It was by no mere chance that it was the Germans who discovered the actuating laws of modern society and scientifically founded socialism as the future form of society. In the first line were Karl Marx and Freidrich Engel, and following them, throwing sparks into the masses, Ferdinand Lassalle. It is, again, not a mere chance that the German socialist movement is the weightiest and most influential in the world, having overshadowed the movement in all other countries. German socialists are the pioneers, who spread socialistic ideas amongst the working people of the most diverse countries." In quoting Bebel, then, as an authority on some of the aims and principles of socialism, we are surely on safe ground. On the question of confiscation, or as Bebel calls it, "expropriation," in his work, "The State and Society," he has the following:— "Now, as social evils, without exception, have source in the social order of things, and, therefore, focus in the capitalistic private administration, which rests upon the exploitation and oppression of man by man, and is only possible by the fact of capitalists being the owners of all means of work (as land, machinery, tools, means of transport, and food), so, firstly, all this private property is to be changed into social property by one great expropriation."

There is not much difficulty in understanding such language as this: "All this private property is to be changed into social property by one great expropriation."
Bebel, in his next chapter, refers again to the same question, and then touches upon another, viz., the relation of the sexes under socialism. He says:-"The expropriation of all means of production having been carried out, society starts out on the new foundation, life and conditions of work for both sexes become completely different in industry, agriculture, transport, education, marriage, in scientific, artistic, and social life." Writing of the goal of socialism as regards the relations of the sexes, he says:-"Morgan, Bachofen, and all others who have occupied themselves deeply with the study of history arrive at the conclusion that in the lower state of savagery a sexual relationship reigned within all tribes by which every woman belonged equally to every man and each man to each woman; then, therefore, there was no distinction of age or origin inside of the tribe, and general mixing up or promiscuity existed."

It is to this state of "mixing up" or "promiscuity" which socialism and Herr Bebel would have us return, for he goes on to say: "In this question as to the future position of woman it is proved in the most striking fashion how the force of human evolution returns at its close to similar social phenomena as first existed in primeval society. The whole development forms a spiral direction upwards, whose final point will stand exactly over the starting point." It is not often that a socialist writer like Bebel has the candour to acknowledge that socialism, at any rate on this question of the relation of the sexes, means a return to barbarism!

Dealing with the origin of marriage, he says:-"We have incontrovertibly proved that the 'middle class' marriage state is the consequence of private property. This marriage state existing in closest connection with private property and the rights of inheritance demands 'legitimate' children as 'heirs.' It is concluded with the intent of obtaining such, and under the pressure of social conditions on the part of the ruling classes, it is also imposed on those who have nothing to bequeath." Belfort Bax also in his "New Cathechism of Socialism" says:-"The existing monogamic relation is simply the outcome of the institution of private properly. When private property ceases to be the fulcrum round which the relations between the sexes turn any attempt at coercion, moral or material, in those relations (as in the marriage laws of to-day), since it would have no reason for its existence, must necessarily become repugnant to the moral sense of the community."

The socialists' ideal of the true relation of the sexes is thus set forth by Bebel:-"In the new socialistic society woman woos or allows herself to be wooed—entering into the bond without other consideration than her own inclination. This bond is a private agreement, without the intervention of any sort of functionary, just as marriage was a private agreement until late in the Middle Ages. Socialism, therefore, does not create anything new, but only places upon a high state of culture and under now social forms what had vogue in the more primitive stages of civilisation, and before private property ruled society. Men and women are to be in a position to follow their strongest instinct, just as freely as any other natural instinct. The satisfaction of the sexual instinct is precisely just as much the personal affair of every individual as the satisfaction of any other natural instinct. He has to give an account to no one, and no one has a right to interfere." Bebel continues at great length in a similar strain, but deals with the question with, such "brutal frankness" as renders it impossible for me to follow him in your columns, but I think I have said enough. Bebel regards this social millennium as fast approaching, for he says:-" Now, this (the realisation of the new relation of the sexes) is approaching with giant strides, and human society has traversed during thousands of years all phases of development in order finally to arrive at the point from which it started, viz., to communistic property and to the full equality and fraternity of all mankind."

I do not suppose that Herr Bebel has had Australian socialism brought under his notice, but if he has one can imagine the contempt he would have for what he would call such "rose water" socialism. Writing of Bellamy's ideal, as set forth in "Looking Backward," he says:-"With Bellamy it will be as with Henry George. Notwithstanding the hundreds of thousands that are said to form Bellamy's disciples, they will accomplish nothing, and must finally go to pieces. That is the consequence of all half-and-half work. A social revolution is not to be carried out by a benevolent 'middle class,' let their number be ever so great, their zeal ever so honest."

May I briefly refer to what Bebel says regarding religion? "As with the State (as at present constituted), so also will it be with religions. . . Without any violent attack, and without any suppression of opinions of whatever kind they may be, religion will of itself gradually disappear, for religion, as Karl Marx says, is a striving after an illusory happiness by the people, arising from a condition of society which needs illusions."

The above, I think, is conclusive on three vital points as regards socialism. Firstly, that confiscation, or, as Bebel terms it, "expropriation," is one of the cardinal principles of socialism. Secondly, that our present marriage laws and family life would give way to a relation between the sexes which would be merely (I quote Bebel's words) for "the satisfaction of the sexual instinct" and "without the intervention of any sort of functionary, that is, without the sanction of any civil or religious ceremony or contract between the parties, and that woman would enter into such an alliance "without other consideration than her own inclination." Such a state of the relation of the sexes as is described by Bebel as the socialistic ideal would be more properly described by one very emphatic but also most literally true word of the English language which I need not further indicate. Thirdly, religion is to gradually disappear as "a striving after illusions" by "a condition of society which needs Illusions." Are the people of Australia enamoured with those principles of socialism as set forth by the practical president of the socialist world, Herr August Bebel?

I am, etc.

C. R. STAPLES.

 smh13/10/1896,

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