Tuesday, 28 July 2015

INDIVIDUALISM AND SOCIALISM

LECTURE DELIVERED IN  BRIEF TO DUCK RIVER W. P. L.

BY REV. ERNEST CULLIFORD

[CONTINUED.]   



The term Socialism has been given wondrously varied interpretations. By some it has been looked upon as an agency which, in the growth of it, is destructive to the foundations of our present society. Is society unchangeable ? Are its orders, its classes, its rulers, its rich, its poor, always to be ? Is there never to be progress from what we see? He would be a poor and daring fool who would say so. Are we satisfied that society has reached the ideal, the common faiths of all are seeking? He would be a man deaf to the voices without who would dare to say so. They are not far wrong who say that Socialism would destroy the foundations of our present society. For what are they? Built upon caste, we have the mass of the people living by condescension and not by right. Built upon economic falsity, we are led to believe that the time of happiness and life for the weak man—and weakness is only relative—is in some far distant mythical kingdom. Built upon the same falsity, we have the sale of honour for a living, the sale of children's lives for bread, and the power and strength of men, without which no production could take place, so at the behest of others that to them the Divine right to work is often denied. And any movement which would destroy these and other foundations like to them, would scarcely do much more harm. The question, however, is to see whether any of these movements, to which the term is applied, are so much more destructive to corrupt foundations than others. Cut them up and define them as we may, the movements all have the same tendency. Some, for the sake of appearance, and to save their faces, may declare themselves as believers in Christian Socialism, the word Christian, seemingly, having some soothing effect. If there be any difference between that and other forms of Socialism, it is not in the spirit at the base, nor in the work it does, but because its aim seems to be more clearly defined than the others. I say, seems to be, for in laying down its claims to have placed its foundations in the social and economic belief of Jesus Christ, it can not, without destroying its work, through arrogance of assertion, claim to be the only exponent of that belief. The basis of all the movements is the same. The work is the same. Where difference may lie is in the interpretations of the end for which these movements are making. And the interpretations, many of them begotten of false religious belief and conceptions, do not, whatever their expression be, alter the end. Socialism then may be defined as the spirit or tendency which fills the movements of the people, the aim of which is so to better the social and economic environment of life, that in a juster condition of things, there will not only be assured less distress and suffering to the members of the people, but, with the amelioration, these members given the right to take that pathway to moral growth, in the attainment of which they had been hindered. This is a wide definition, embracing all movements, which, whatever be the pathway of work, have, for an end, the construction of society upon the justice of eternal righteousness. Such a spirit can only be deemed destructive to what stands in its path. It is progressive. It is inspirational. It speaks a message of freedom, and, necessarily, with the passing away of the selfish individualism of life, it harmonises the faith and ideals of humanity. In the progressiveness of its movement it makes clearer the pathways of life, and shows the gradual bending of these avenues to one final unity. The argument, as to the moral basis of Socialism, would prove whether it is destructive in its spirit, to any of the qualities and attributes needed of humanity for its proper growth. Where Individualism departs from its tendency to use the social body for individual benefit alone, and takes regard, even in the least, to character in life, it is no longer Individualism ; but, however laggard it be in its tendency, it is on the social high-road. That Individualism can be moral, and yet make selfish use of the corporate body is fallacious in the order of things. To argue so bespeaks that obliquity of mind begotten of an education false to the spirit of true culture; and the moral destructiveness of any movement, in the light of the social growth, discredits it as a factor in the regeneration of society. There is no Individualism, then, but what is based in selfishness. It is the waste and greed of the social knave. Is Socialism morally destructive to the social growth of life? Does it, in leading life to its unity—the search of life—reduce all things to a dull uniformity ? And does it eliminate the moral attributes that conduce to the glory of human nature? These are questions asked and needed to be answered. The social growth of life results from the elimination, from the atmosphere surrounding it, of all unjust social and economic conditions, by faith in and practice of common ideals. These ideals are the notes of every social movement, however variedly they be expressed. They are the constructors of a moral edifice in character, to which the material things in Nature minister as servants, and these are the outcomes of the social movements. Whether the appeals of men be for less working hours in the day ; for a higher rate of wages than a living one; for the abolition of the wage system ; for the right to work ; for release from serfdom in land tenancy; or for the many other yearnings expressed, the basis of all is wholly moral, and thereby constructive. It is the assertion that man is greater than material, and that human life is greater than property. No movement with a social aim can be destructive to anything but an order of society, in which the moral order of things is so reversed as to place property in the way of regard as of greater value than life, and to such an atheistical order, Socialism, of necessity, of right, and of Divine impulse, must be antagonistic and destructive.
 As to the questions whether Socialism eliminates the finer attributes of life, and reduces it to a dull uniformity little need be said, for scarcely any rational mind would disbelieve that the product of an improved social order, from which the unjust, embittering conditions have been cast out, is an improved nature. It would be unthinkable to expect that while the social order is unceasingly moving on, the man, whose mind gives birth to the impulses of the movements, whose spirit carries them on, and who makes larger movements through the realisation of richer visions, is still the same man, unchanged from what he was when a selfish social order made him harsh in spirit. Social movements, while improving social conditions, necessarily improve the moral nature of man, and so they lead, through the unceasing progression they impel to, ultimately to the man, who, in the final unity, is a free man, free from subjection and slavery to an economy of materialism, that he may control it for purposes of social and moral good. Thus there can be no elimination of the finer attributes of life. There are thrust out, most certainly, the aspects of greed, of cunning, of covetousness,of selfishness things which, in an immoral order, we clothe in a goodly garment, under the name of an emulatory competitive spirit, and in the place of these is set the higher spirit, the mutualism of love, under the control of which no unity can be dull, and no life without glory. It has been the habit of an individualistic age to glorify the selfish aspects of life, and to discredit as unreal the higher qualities as belonging to it in any way. It is in the arrogance and baseness of a low limited thought that we assert, in the face of the soul cry, that life is made up of selfish qualities. Discredit as we may, the social movements are impelling the people onward in their search to a brotherhood, whose common faith and common ideal have led them to achieve the Divine right of man—the right to control the sacramental things of life, that no member of the great brotherhood may ever again become a slave to an unjust order. This is the aim of Socialism, whatever it be called, or however imperfect any of the movements may be. What imperfections of aim many possess is not of the spirit in them, but of the imperfect visions in the minds of those who lead them, and these are born of the environment in which the mind is moulded. Thus of the two movements, Individualism is fallacious in its nature. It cannot exist and grow logically. It requires constant legal restriction. It is knavish, in that it steals from the social body, and declines any responsibility. It has so led human nature that, what in our blindness, we call the constitutionality of the existing order, is hidden from us in its true nature as an atheistic anarchy, denying, in its selfish practice, the Divine in man, and crushing down the brave courage of life, when it asserts that the economic Kingdom of Christ is a reality. It plays to the low passions, asserting their necessity as a part of the make up of life, and of their continued existence so long as it lasts. It quells the brave ventures of inspiration.
 Socialism, on the other hand, denies the necessity of sin as an impulse to social growth. It demands of every member that the social glory may be attained, the bearing of mutual responsibility. It demands the unison of the arts. It sets free one member from slavery to another, quelling the prideful arrogance of the one that seeks for individual benefit. It denies that Life can only grow through the influence of the mind of the past. It does not glorify constitutionalism as the hidden God before which the unlearned must bend in awe. It asserts that the progress of the people can only be by the visions of what life is to be, and what it has a right to be. It does not give in the condescension of charity, but in the eternal justice of right. It does not believe in the assertion that, eliminating all the selfish individual passions from life, it is thereby leaving it bereft of all that makes it life. It asserts that the selfish attributes are the hurtful accidents, born of a disordered social society, and so it works eagerly for the end of giving to life the ordered social atmosphere, whereby its moral and Divine growth may be unchecked. It denies emphatically that Society must attain its ideal out of compromise between the righteous impulses of man and the sinfulness of vested interests and past traditions. It would inspire man with faith in his nature as eternal, and would govern him always by a faith in the future. It denies the atheistic dualism that the spiritual and material must always be in conflict, asserting that life is a unity, with the material so ordered, that, instead of man becoming a slave to it, it becomes an eternal help to exalt and redeem the spiritual. Faint as the visions of many social workers be, dimmed as they may be in conception, harsh as they may be in expression, the spirit at the base is eternal ; the end is redemption of man from individual anarchy, and the setting of him in the freedom of a social being. The faint visions, the dim conceptions, the harsh expressions, are bred of the unjust environment, into which lives of great social power are cast. So ill formed are we in conception, so warped are we by unjust education, that we deem the upsettal of the present reign of economic and social lawlessness as paving the way for an anarchy of state, not recognising that the present social condition is the true state of anarchy, in its denial of the power of life ever to attain to, in this world, the state of mutualism as set forth by Christ. Socialism strikes at the root of the present anarchy by inspiring man to aim for the only Reign of Law that is just—the law of the mutualism of human action in love. There is no greater anti-Christ than he who deliberately denies, by the practice of his life, that the Sermon on the Mount is the economics and politics of life, needed for the salvation of man. Socialism, in all its movements, announces its belief in that teaching in the most undeniable manner possible, by laying its life down in the service of man for the attainment of the Rest of Life by the acceptance of these teachings.
 The argument from established fact is plain. New States have sought to escape the evils, present and arising, in older ones by making use of the social power they possess to so govern the State that the good of the whole is achieved. In them the necessities upon which life most distinctly depends for physical sustenance and development are held by the State for the life and benefit of its citizens. These are the larger necessities, and the most compelling, so that the inhuman injustice of private control is more plainly seen in such instances. The control of the Water Supply—both Municipal and Governmental—is established in these new States. To hand it over to private individuals, that the question of life and death may become reduced to the interest of greater profit for these individuals would be looked upon as national calamity, and would be resisted as such. Yet, if the logic of Individualism be just, there is no unrighteousness nor injustice in the control of millions of lives by the water companies of London for personal profit. But the tendency of the times is the most solid argument, against which the slowly moving Conservative, the supercilious Tory, and the believer in the dead and dusty God of Constitutionalism must give way. The movement of both Municipal and State bodies is so to control not only the larger and more compelling necessities of life, but also public utilities, in the way of railways, tramways, public areas,that the life of the citizens may not only be well sustained, but that that life may also be enriched in moral and physical health. The movements of the past have made their growth, not because of love for the righteousness of them, but because the silent social forces of life could not be stayed. It is so at the present that growth is by suffering and not by love for the ideal. And that is the calamity of life. The signs of the future, however, are that larger movements of the people will be made through the clearing of darkness from the vision, and through the courageous venturesomeness of the leaders. The social growth is showing itself more plainly in Municipal life. The control of lighting, of water, of tramways, (even where lack of social faith has permitted private companies to construct lines there is Municipal control, legislative oversight, and ultimately municipal resumption) the construction of open spaces, the enrichment of parks and gardens, with many other acts, are the evidences that the way of the future is to be unto righteousness through love for it. Yet, while the people are moving forward, the pathway of solution seems also backward. Resumption is being made of what lies upon the surface. With each resumption, however, the movements go deeper and deeper, until, at last the great birthright will be reached. The reservation of parks and gardens is one of the voices telling us that the time of the control of the people's greatest birthright—the land, their dwelling place—is not in the far distance. All other necessities and utilities are but the outcome of this.
 The struggle of the future lies between the rising social forces, impelled by social vision and social faith, and the power that lies in monied and vested interests, which stand in the road of the realisation of the Social Ideal. Slave power has gone. King power, as a tyranny and a controlling force, has gone. The power of to-day, controlling human life to its loss and death, is the anarchical power of monied interests, intent upon keeping the soul of the people in thraldom. It has no morality where the achievement of its end is at stake. It seeks to blind the mind of the Divine by gifts to philanthropy, substituted for the righteous just dealing the Divine requires. It blinds the eyes of the church by rich gifts thrown into its channels, and the word of warning uttered to any preacher who may assert the reality of Christ's Kingdom and denounce the present order as the dualism and atheism of evil, is that his living and peace depends upon his silence. It corrupts legislatures. It drives nation to war against nation, and keeps the awful carnage of the innocent people alive. It blinds the eyes of the multitude with cant phrases, and never dares risk its own life in the bloodshed. It seduces the people through the channels of education it supports, and the newspapers under its sway. Its ways of dealing with people that their eyes may be blinded to their Divine social rights are innumerable. It is the atheistic power, against which the social consciousness of the people is steadily rising. It yet plays upon the dread fear that the expression of a social faith would lead to the injury of life. The tide, however, is rising. Past the fear of the people, past their misconceptions, past the falsity of calumny, past the malignancy of vested interests, past the infamy of slander, it is moving, a social consciousness that has shaken the thrones of kings, and that, now, is demanding of those, who have usurped power, that the freedom of the people may not be delayed until the social pressure brings anguish, but that it may speedily be given as the only state in which the Divine social glory  of life may be attained.

Circular Head Chronicle 26 February 1908

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