Friday, 15 March 2013

SOCIALISM AND FREE LOVE.

A GREAT CONTROVERSY.
 BETWEEN H. G. WELLS, THE NOVELIST, AND 'THE TIMES' and the 'DAILY EXPRESS.

The controversy on Socialism and Free Love, which engaged public attention in Australia some months ago in connection with Mr. George Reid's anti-Socialist propaganda, has broken out with special fury in Great Britain. The 'Daily Express,' which is publishing daily a sensational column entitled "The Fraud of Socialism," writes as follows on September 15: — 
 The more one pursues inquiries into the fraud of Socialism the more stupendous and shameless that fraud appears to be.                
Investigations made yesterday reveal three salient facts, which may be tabulated as follows: —          
 (a) The universal disgust at the dictum of Mr. H. G. Wells— a Fabian—that the ultimate goal of Socialism is "free love." This theory is set forth in Mr. Wells' book, "In the Days of the Comet," which was published yesterday.
(b) The analysis of statistics which show conclusively that whereas the rank and file of trade unionists, are anti-Socialists the leaders of the trade unionists are hopelessly in the hands of the Socialist party.        
(c) The brave and determined fight that is being made by Mr. Richard Bell, M.P., secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, against Socialist domination.
 In regard to the first, which is of course the most grave and most important of the three, we cannot do better than print the following extract of the criticism offered in the literary supplement of yesterday's "Times" on Mr. H. G. Wells' amazing, book:—        
"He— Mr. Wells— foresees the objection that, even if men could be persuaded not to quarrel about property, they would still be liable to quarrel about women, and he is prepared with his solution of that problem also. Socialistic men's wives, we gather, are, no less than their goods, to be held in common. Free love, according to Mr. Wells, is to be of the essence of the new social contract. One wonders how far he will insist in the tracts which he is understood to desire to write for the Fabian Society, and what the other Fabians will say."       
 These points, however, should be borne in mind:    
1. The Fabians were the originators of the system of "permeation" which has impregnated the Independent Labor Party with ideas and ideals.
2. The Fabian Society still inspires the Labor Party.              
3. And Mr. H. G. Wells is one of its shining lights.          
The best reply to Mr H. G. Wells' repellent suggestion is the following interview with the Rev. Percy Dearmer: —      
"The very last class of women in this country to tolerate the suggestion of free love, or of anything approaching such a condition, are the sane, sober women of the working class."    
In these words the Rev. Percy Dearmer, one of the most advanced of the London clergy and a clergyman of great experience in the problems of the masses, summed up the case against those Socialists who subscribe to Mr. Mr. H. G. Wells' gospel of free love.  
"The wives of the great bulk of the trade unionists and, further than that, the women of the great mass of workers who are enrolled in the membership of the trade unions, are steadfast in their deep attachment to the sanctity of marriage.
"I saw the reference, in the "Times" this morning to Mr. Wells' picture of the future system under Socialism — the inference that 'free love is to be of the essence of the contract'
The contemplation of such a future in our land must fill right-thinking men, reformers or otherwise, with horror and dismay. Happily, however, there is arrayed against any such abrogation of the sanctity of the marriage tie, not only the attitude, even of the most advanced clergy, but also the fixed opposition of the bulk of the working classes themselves.  
"If there, is any tendency in any class to such an idea, it is in the middle class, but even there it exists in only isolated and insignificant cases.  

SOCIALISM IN THE CHURCH.

—"It is quite true that there are in the Established Church two societies, calling themselves by the Socialist name. These are the Guild of St Matthew and the Christian Social Union. But the aim of those clergy is towards the brotherhood of man, and not to the destruction of all that the unsullied holiness of the marriage institution means to the purity and happiness of English life.                       
"The clergy, who belongs to these societies are largely among what is roughly called the 'High Church,' and they are thoroughly in sympathy with the trade unions. At the same time they are also thoroughly orthodox.  
"The great comfort however, is that the working men's wives are freer from vice than any other class of the community.              
"Moreover, the trend of the masses is not towards atheism, infidelity, and immorality. The trend is towards religion.                
"I fancy even Mr. H. G. Wells, in spite of his vision of a future of Socialistic free love, would probably shrink from applying that principle in actual practice.        
"On this point the working class of Britain can be trusted.        
"The Guild of St Matthew of which I am a member," said the Rev. Lenthal Davids, vicar, of St John's, 'has supported Labor candidates, and is in sympathy with the trade union movement, but it would certainly oppose any such idea as that which is sought to be put forward by Mr. Wells as part of his system of Socialism. There is very little fear of the working class going over to a system of Socialistic atheism and free love. The suggestion in Mr. Wells' book is terrible."         
 In regard to the second-point of interest, it can now be made clear that the preponderance of the Socialist members in the Labor Party is by no means what it seems. In the first place, it must be remembered that until recently the two forces which counted for the representation of Labor in Parliament were:—  
The Independent Labor Party (Mr. Keir Hardie as chief).
 The Labor Representation Committee (Mr. Keir Hardie in the ascendancy).
 To this Mr. Wells, in a letter to the editor of the 'Express,' replies as follows:—      
Sir, — Will you please oblige me by publishing my emphatic contradiction of certain statements contained in the 'Express' of September 15, and will you be so good as to give my contradiction a prominence at least equal to that given to the libel of which I complain?    
 To say that it is my dictum that the ultimate goal of Socialism is free love is an outrageous lie. It is equally a lie that this theory is set forth in my book 'In the Days of the Comet.' I cannot conceive how any respectable paper— even in 'the utmost rancor of anti-Socialist propaganda — can have brought itself to make so wanton and so mischievous a statement.
Your sole ground for this invention seems to be a remarkably unintelligent or remarkably dishonest review, of my book in the 'Times,' in which the writer, guarding himself from positive statement by a judicious 'we gather,' says: 'Socialistic men's wives, we gather are, no less than their goods, to be held in common,' and goes on to impute to me all sorts of nonsense about 'free love.' The 'Times" reviewer has gathered wrong. So have you.   You then, it would appear, sent a representative to 'draw' the Rev. Percy Dearmer, and he, judging my book up on the 'Times' report of it, falls in with your libel. The Rev. Lenthal Davids, too, has been, one gathers, caught in the same way, and subscribes to the growing snowball of falsehood about me. Why cannot these reverend gentlemen either read a book carefully or avoid these hasty, foolish condemnations of what they do not understand?   
 My book presents the coming of a great change to the world, a great mental and moral exaltation that alters the whole of life. Human beings cease to be human beings with our present limitations. The narrow life of our present conditions disappears— is replaced by something wider and more splendid.   That dream has no relation whatever to my Socialist proposals.
The people in this exalted world, in this kingdom of heaven on earth, become communists — as the early Christians did. (what does the Rev. Percy Dearmer think of the early Christians?) —and just as in the Christian Utopia, there is neither 'marrying nor giving in marriage' among them. If the suggestion in my book is 'horrible' to the Rev. Lerithal Davids, equally 'horrible' must be that teaching of the Founder of religion he has undertaken to represent.  
And what do you expect to do by smearing my reputation in this way? I'm in no way a representative of any Socialist organisation— I'm merely a private, unorthodox, and rebellious member of the Fabian Society; and If I were a Public Scandal it wouldn't cast the ghost of a shadow upon the Independent Labor Party;
H. G. WELLS,     Spade House, Sandgate, Kent

The 'Express' rejoins in the following leading article: —   

A SOCIALIST "PARADISE."
 
The alarm which is spreading in socialist circles in consequence of the 'Express' exposure of socialist aims and methods is strikingly demonstrated by a letter to this paper from Mr. H. G. Wells, which we print this, morning. In very vehement language the writer brands our criticism of his latest work as 'an outrageous lie,' imputes unintelligence or dishonesty to the 'Times,' and accuses two clergy men of subscribing to falsehood. We are also informed that the ideal set forth in the book, 'In the Days of the Comet,' is not a socialist ideal, but a communist ideal, that Mr. Wells is not a representative of any socialist organisation, and that the Independent Labor Party have nothing to do with the case. We do not propose to emulate the writer's vehemence by bandying charges of falsehood and stupidity. We will content ourselves with commenting on Mr. Wells's own letter and his book, and will leave our readers to judge if we have, as is suggested, vitally misrepresented their author.  
A serious reply is hardly necessary to the suggestion that the Utopia depicted by Mr. Wells is communistic, and not socialistic. Between these two terms, in their relation to practical politics at the present day, a useful distinction can hardly be drawn. But we must own that we are surprised at the contention. When a prominent socialist depicts his conception of a reformed State, commonsense obliges, us to conclude that the ideal is a socialist ideal. When this prominent socialist chooses for the protagonist of his book a young, militant socialist, who is an earnest reader of the socialist weekly organ, our deduction, reaches the degree of certainty. So much for this contention. We now gather — albeit with some difficulty, in view of the vagueness of Mr. Wells' language — that the writer denies that "free love" has a place in his socialistic-communistic Utopia. Candidly, we do not know how Mr. Wells can reconcile this contention with the facts. We turn to "In the Days of the Comet" society — in which husband and wife, united by marriage, are compared with "beasts in little pits"— and we find this remarkable passage: —
"All freshness passed very speedily out of their love, out of their conversation; all pride out of their common life. To permit each other freedom was dishonor."
In these phrases Mr. Wells discloses his hand completely. They involve a contemptuous censure upon existing society because our code does not permit free love. To continue, Mr. Wells depicts four people —two men and two women — living together under the new conditions, which are a complete reversal of the old, and their relations are hinted at in a somewhat repellent passage:—            
"We four, from that time were very, close, you understand, we were friends, helpers, personal lovers in a world of lovers."          
Free lovers, in short, in a world of free lovers. Does Mr. Wells still maintain that his Utopia is not a socialist Utopia, and that free love has no part in it? Does he seriously mean to compare the revolting conditions of this Utopia with the conditions under which the early Christians lived? Can he uphold his charge of falsehood, dishonesty, or unintelligence in view of the fact that not merely the 'Dally Express' and the 'Times,' but three other London daily papers, took his Utopia to be a Utopia of  "free love?"  We doubt it.  
We are not aware that when these notices of his work appeared on Friday last he protested against the alleged misrepresentation. It is only when it becomes obvious that the working classes are taking alarm at the repulsive prospect which socialism is opening up for them that he essays to avert public indignation. So far as Mr. H. G. Wells personally is concerned, we have nothing but respect for him. He is a writer of high genius and broad sympathies; but it is precisely because of this that we regard the socialist peril very seriously.  When men of his intellectual rank are led astray by the pernicious socialist propaganda, and use their influence to turn others away from sound national principles, it becomes our duty to warn the country of the dangers which socialism is preparing for it. It is because of such facts as this that we oppose the progress of a party whose future no one can guarantee.  
Mr. Wells returns to the fray in the following letter: —    
Sir, — I am amazed to find that in your leader of to-day you continue in your hopeless attempt to show that I want the ordinary human beings of to-day to live in a state of promiscuous sexual intercourse. It is, I repeat, an outrageous libel upon me. You make certain quotations from my book; you omit to state that they are supposed to be written by a character in the book, and not by myself; and so you seek to bolster up your case. I appeal to your readers! Here is a passage from the epilogue; does it not say distinctly and conclusively that my story is not what you are trying to make it out to be?
"This was as much as this pleasant looking, grey-haired man had written. I had been lost in his story throughout the earlier portions of lit, forgetful of the writer and his gracious room, and the high tower in which he was sitting. But gradually, as I drew near the end, the sense of strangeness returned to me. It was more and more evident to me that this was a different humanity, from any I had known, unreal, having different customs, different emotions. It was no mere change in conditions and institutions the comet had wrought. It had made a change of heart and mind. In a manner it had dehumanised the world, robbed it of its spites, its little intense jealousies, its inconsistencies, its humor. ... He and these transfigured people — they were beautiful and noble people, like the people one sees in great pictures, like the gods of noble sculpture, but they had no nearer fellowship than these to men."
How any one can stick to it that the conditions represented in my book are a Socialist ideal or a Communist ideal or any other sort of ideal for this world after reading that beats me altogether !
And you read your own coarseness into the passage you quote. It runs:—
"But we four from that time were very close, you understand, we were friends, helpers, personal lovers in a world of lovers." Here are the words that follow immediately: —
"Four?"
"There was Verrall."
"Then suddenly it came to me that the thoughts that stirred in my mind were sinister and base, that the queer suspicions, the coarseness and coarse jealousies of my old world were over and done for these more finely living souls."           
 Who gets filth out of that must first put it in.   H. G. WELLS.    
Spade House, Sandgate, Kent.
 The 'Express' has the last word in the following:—  
It will be obvious to readers of the 'Express' that Mr. Wells has only attempted to answer a portion of the leading article to which he refers. It will be seen that he advances three propositions:—
1. That the conditions he outlines in his book are neither a Socialistic nor a Communistic Ideal.
2. That the conditions described in the book have no relation with the actual world.
3. That the condition described in the book is not that of 'free love.'
The first point is answered by Mr. Wells himself. In his letter printed in yesterday's 'Express' there occurs the passage: "The people in this exalted world, in this kingdom of heaven on earth become Communists."  
The second point is also answered by Mr. Wells himself in the passage quoted when he refers to people becoming Communists "on earth."
As to the third point— that 'free love' has no place in Mr. Wells' Utopia —again we will let Mr. Wells reply. The following are quotations from "In the Days of the Comet" (Page 296):—  
It seems to me as if the intense love of Nettie vanished utterly out of mind at the touch of Anna's lips. I loved Anna.  
We went to the council of our group — commune it was then called— and she was given me in marriage, and within a year she had borne me a son. . . . And after a little while my love and desire for Nettie returned, as though it had never faded away.  
No one will have a difficulty now in understanding how that could be, but in the evil days of the world malaria that would have been held to be the most impossible thing. . . . The old-world theory was there was only one love. We who float upon a sea of love find that hard to understand.  
Page 298:—
I loved Nettie, I loved all who were like her in the measure that they were like her, in voice, or eyes, or form, or smile. And between my wife and me there was no bitterness that the great goddess, the life-giver Aphrodite, Queen of the Living Seas, came to my imagination so. It qualified our mutual love not at all, since now in our changed world love is unstinted. . .
Page 304 (The narrator is being questioned with regard to his relations with Nettie):—
"Were you lovers?"
 His eyebrows rose. "Of course."
"But your wife?"
It was manifest he had not understood me.
I hesitated still more. I was perplexed by a conviction of baseness. "But—," I began, "you remained lovers?"
"Yes." I had grave doubts If I understood him. Or he me.
I made a still more courageous attempt.
"And had Nettie no other lovers?"
"A beautiful woman like that? I know not how many loved beauty in her, nor what she found in others, but we four from that time were very close, you understand, we were friends, helpers, personal lovers in a world of lovers."  
Mr. Wells' attempt to explain his position by the remark that his Utopia resembles the 'Christian Utopia' in the fact that in neither is there "marrying nor giving in marriage" is highly disingenuous.
The extracts from "In the Days of the Comet" show that in post-comet days men and women retain their passions and their humanity, while Mr. Wells knows quite well that the 'Christian Utopia' is a spirit world.
The exact reference is: 'For when they shall rise from the dead they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels in heaven.'

 The Daily News 27 October 1906,

No comments: