Monday, 3 February 2014


For the purpose of clear thinking on social matters, I venture to set down some thoughts on Socialism. Very gravely I add that they are not meant to be a defence of Socialism. They are merely social facts, the knowledge of which has been arrived at by a process of observation. I set them down as the astronomer tabulates and records his observed astronomical facts, not knowing what use may be made of them; but feeling that it is his duty to record them, whether they are used or not.
A late writer in an influential Catholic review maintained that absolution could not he given to a Catholic Socialist who came to confession because the policy of the Socialist party was secularisation. The argument, couched in the accustomed forms, of the schools, was very persuasive. But on second thought it could be seen that the premises, which served to insure the conclusion desired or the writer, would also serve to justify not a few conclusions which the writer would disown. Socialism is accused of wishing to do a number of undesirable things. Indeed, the common method of disproving Socialism is to show by striking and detailed word painting that if Socialism became dominant in the Commonwealth the state of things thereby introduced would be intolerable and even unjust.
Some Samples.
1. One of the first charges made against Socialism is that it would socialise everything and everybody ; and that it would therefore make slaves of us all, or at least of all except the state officials under whom we should all be regimented, case-papered, paid, fed, tended and buried.
This argument, if carefully drawn by a man of feeling, can be particularly effective. It is perhaps the locus communis which, for years has left me not unmoved whenever I hear it. But, on second thought, it appears that this inhuman programme which Socialism is expected to bring forth is already in great part realised, and not by the Socialists. Mr. Belloc and others who are confessedly not Socialists agree that Socialism is committed to this dismal homogeneity and slavery. But they add that it is a thing in great part realised by existing political parties. One has only to read "The Servile State" to be haunted by the idea that not only existing Socialism, but the existing Conservative and Liberal, and Democratic and Republican parties, are committed to a programme of socialised services which rest essentially on a basis of compulsory work, i.e., slavery.
Moreover, in such a thorough-going monarchy as Germany, the number of social functions that have now become socialised are almost as many as most Socialists would claim for their Socialistic State. Indeed, the formula of the most absolute monarch, "L'tetat, c'est moi," needs a change, not of form, but of content, to be the programme of every advanced party in modern political education.
All this is dramatically confirmed by the diagnosis made by Leo XIII. of the actual state of social affairs. "A small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the labouring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself." (Rerum  Novanum.)  
 It is quite evident that this existing state of things is substantially what Socialism is condemned for proposing to bring in! Moreover, it is equally evident that the state of things condemned by the Pope is not due to Socialism ; but, if attributable to any party, then to Conservatives, Liberals, Republicans, or Democrats.  
Another Specimen.  
2. A second plea for decrying Socialism is that it would secularise education.          
Here, as elsewhere in this paper, no attempt is made to accept or deny these plans, although it is well known that a large portion of the Education Act of 1902 was inspired by a leading Socialist.  
But can anyone dread Socialism because it will secularise education? Has not education, even in these countries; been largely, and even dominantly, secularised? In the United States public education is completely secularised. There it was a bourgeois revolution and not Socialism that brought in secularisation. In England the secular programme is officially Liberal.    
If, then, a Socialist is to be refused absolution because his party would bring in secularism, how can absolution be granted in England to a Liberal whose party have an equally, secular programme; and in the United States, to both Democrats and Republicans, who agree in accepting and defending the present secularism?
3. A further argument against Socialism is that it would degrade women by taking women out into spheres of public work. But statistics are at hand to prove that women workers are to be found in almost every sphere of labour; more over, they have often been employed be cause, being non-unionised, they could be forced or persuaded to accept a, lower rate of wages than men. This is most strongly confirmed by all kinds of investigators. Recently the Municipal Vice Commission, of Chicago, found that a great deal of the prostitution in their rich city was due to the abnormally low wages paid to girls in a number of employments. The present state of women is such a matter of shame that many of the arguments against the suffrage movement are pointless.
But what has Socialism had to do with the degradation of women? And if Socialists are not to be absolved for a crime they have not committed, why may absolution be granted to those by whom the crime has been either committed or approved ?
Destroying the Home.
4. A further and most forcible argument against Socialism is that it would destroy the home. This argument is of great service in strengthening minds that see in the home the only hope of a nation's future. Any political party that threatens the home, no matter what its claim to social service, must be looked on as anti-social.
But it may well be asked, has the home not already been threatened? Indeed, have the threats not been too well realised, and are not great masses of the workfolk wholly homeless? A room or two overcrowded with inmates can not be called a home. A house in such conditions and in such surroundings that the infant mortality is twice or thrice as much as in well-to-do neighbourhoods cannot be called a home. Yet the recent blue book on the housing of Great Britain and Ireland has an eloquence of statistics proving that the homes of our country are not merely threatened, but vigorously at tacked and undermined.
Moreover, to repeat the argument of the previous section, woman's work has largely taken wives from their own homes and made them wives but not mothers, This is to destroy the home. Now, this again is not a future evil to be dreaded ; it is such a rooted present evil that any whole-hearted efforts to uproot it are likely to offer the features of a revolution. Yet again, not Socialism, but some other political or industrial policy has set up almost unnoticed this enemy of the home.    
Other Rights.
5. Lastly, and this is perhaps the most urgent of all the pleas against Socialism, it is said that Socialism would destroy the inborn and inalienable right of property. But the right of property means not that some men shall own all property, but that all men shall own some property, one asks: 'Where is this right of property existing in the world to-day?' Is the inalienable right of property kept in a state of things where vast numbers of workfolk have not a square yard of land and are never more than a month from destitution ? Is this inalienable right a fact in a state of things where, by the testimony of the Pope, "a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the labouring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself," and "where there are two widely different castes . . . one which holds power because it holds wealth and which has in its grasp the whole of labour and trade, and on the other side there is the needy and powerless multitude, broken down and, suffering," so that "some remedy must be found, and found quickly, for the misery (i.e., want) and wretchedness pressing so heavily and so unjustly on the vast majority of the working classes." (Rerum Nevarum.)
It is evident that this state of injustice whereby the vast majority of the working classes are in a position of misery is not exactly a state based on the right of property. For injustice is the forcible taking or holding of property. And it is evident that this state based on the violent interference with the right of property, is not in any measure due to the political party called Socialism. It must, therefore, be due either in its rise or maintenance to the other political parties which Catholics freely enter without dread of being refused absolution.
As was said at the outset, this line of thought, is not meant— nor perhaps even fitted to be a defence of Socialism. It is merely an observed and recorded fact for the guidance of social thinkers. If a social thinker refuses absolution to a member of the Socialist party because the Socialist party would bring in a state of things, why does he not refuse absolution to members of the other political parties, for the state of things is already in existence and has been brought about or, at least, is being upheld by them?
It is evident, therefore, that there is some flaw in the course of reasoning which would withhold absolution on a probability and give it on a fact. Either the premises are not observed facts or the reasoning is amiss. For the moment our task is to point out that somewhere there is a flaw in the chain of reasoning, with hope that social thinkers will revise either their facts or their deductions.
— Rev. Vincent McNabb, O.P., in the 'Catholic Transcript,' Hartford, Con., U.S.

 Worker 29 October 1914,

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