Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/319

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303
SOCIALISM

enter into their daily cares and put himself in their place. If he makes the somersault and is “converted,” all the little and great privileges of the rich seem now to have as many presumptions against them as were before in their favour. Why should he have so much comfort and they so little? why should he be secure when they live from hand to mouth? why should art and science and refinement be thrown in his own way and be hardly within their reach at all? Such and similar ponderings are not far from a revolt against inequality, whether the revolt takes the shape of anarchism or of socialism. It carries us beyond the paternal socialism of Carlyle and Ruskin or even of the author of Sybil, relying as Disraeli did on the “proud control” of the old English state, which was occasionally and spasmodically constructive as well as controlling, but was always actuated by a feeling like that of a chief to his clansmen. The exponents of paternal socialism have no clear consciousness of the change in the state itself. They think they can still use the old tools. They see that the people have changed, but they do not see that if the past cannot be revived for a people neither can it be revived for a state. The idea of lordship (as distinguished from leadership) is becoming intolerable; and this restiveness may contain a safeguard against one of the worst risks of socialism, bureaucracy. Before the governing bureaucracy had destroyed all originality and eccentricity, the sovereign people would have discovered for itself that “tyranny is a poor provider.”

Great Britain.—In England a certain academic interest in socialism was created by Mill's discussions on the subject in his Political Economy (1848) and a more practical interest by the appearance of the Christian Socialists. “The red fool-fury of the Seine” caused prejudice even against such harmless enthusiasts. The People's Charter (in the 'thirties) had no socialistic element in it. Socialism first showed signs of becoming a popular movement in England after the lecturing tour of Henry George (1881-1882) in advocacy of the nationalizing of the land. About that very time (1880) the Democratic (afterwards in 1883 the Social Democratic) Federation was formed by advocates of the whole socialistic programme. A secession took place in 1884 when William Morris, H. M. Hyndman and Belfort Bax founded the Socialist League. William Morris parted company with the league in 1890, and seems to have become more anarchist than socialist. Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward (1887) made some impression among intellectual people in England; but Robert Blatchford's Merrie England (1894) made much more way amongst the multitude, followed up as it was by his newspaper the Clarion. There were still few signs of a strong party. The first members of the Fabian Society (1888) were by definition opportunists, and though the Fabian Essays (1889) were socialistic they were the declarations of men willing to use the ordinary political machinery and accept reforms in the present that might point to a socialistic solution in the very far distance. Most of the Fabians became hard-working radicals of the old type, with general approval. England does not love even the appearance of a revolution. Nevertheless a change has come over the spirit of English politics in the direction desired by socialists, though hardly through any efforts of theirs. The change was predicted by Herbert Spencer in 1860 (Westm. Rev. April) some years before household suffrage (1867). In The Man versus the State (1885) he demonstrates that liberal legislation which once meant the removal of obstacles now meant the coercion of the individual. Though a large part of the coercive measures enumerated by Spencer are rather regulation than socialism, undoubtedly there is here and there a socialistic provision. Thomas Hill Green's dictum, “It is the business of the State to maintain the conditions without which a free exercise of the human faculties is impossible” (Liberal Legislation and Freedom of Contract, 1881), did not in appearance go much further than Herbert Spencer's that “it is a vital requirement for society and for the individual to recognize and enforce the conditions to a normal social life” (The Man versus the State, p. 102); but the former saw clearly that the policy of the future must go beyond mere regulation. Too much importance has been attached to a saying of Sir William Harcourt in 1888, “We are all Socialists now.” He meant no more than that we are all social reformers who will use the aid of the state without scruple if it seems necessary. He did not mean that the English people had adopted a general principle of socialism. Except in the case of free trade, it is hard to discover a general principle in English politics. The English people judge each case on the merits, and as if no general principle ever affected the merits. Regulation and not initiative is the prevailing feature of the action of government even now. The railways are still in private hands. The state railways, canals and forests of India, though John Morley (afterwards Viscount Morley) “made a present of them to the Socialists” (House of Commons, 20th July 1906), are the public works of a modern benevolent despotism, and do not go very far beyond those of its ancient prototype. They are the works not of the Indian but of an alien democracy. Contrariwise, in England itself, possessed of a fair measure of self-government, crown lands, government dock-yards, army, fleet, post office were in existence when there was no thought of state socialism; they are not modern innovations but time-honoured institutions.

The same is true of a great part of municipal socialism. It existed in the middle of the 19th century, and no local community would have been deterred from having its own water-supply or gas works by any fear of socialism. The fear is still less deterrent now; and we have seen electric lighting, tramways, parks, markets, ferries, light railways, baths and wash-houses, house property, river steamers, libraries, docks, oyster beds, held by towns like Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Colchester. Sometimes the management is economical, sometimes wasteful; but in all cases the undertakings have been supported by a majority who care little for general theory and everything for local interests. The “unity of administration” successfully advocated by Edwin Chadwick in the later Victorian period, and requiring “competition for the field but not in the field,” is not inconsistent with municipal socialism. This last has been provided with new machinery by the establishment of county and district councils (1888), parish councils (1894) and even the perhaps-otherwise-intended metropolitan borough councils (1899). Till 1907, when the progressive party in the London County Council were heavily defeated, that council was certainly moving in the path of municipal socialism. But, in its achievements as distinguished from its claims, it had not overtaken, still less surpassed, Birmingham or Glasgow. Municipal socialism in Britain finds many critics; it has the drawbacks of all democratic self-government. It is sometimes wasteful; but it is seldom corrupt; and there is no general desire for a return to a less adventurous policy. In the country districts democracy is still imperfectly conscious of its own power. There are acts on the statute book that would well equip a parochial socialism; but socialists seem to be able to do little more than accelerate slightly what seems to be the inevitably slow pace of political reform in England. Whether the extension of the franchise to women will quicken the rate of reform is uncertain.

With every allowance, the change in English politics has been real, and it has been due in a great measure to the growth of organization among working men. The old trade unionism passed out of its dark ages by the aid of legislation (in 1871), which was for thirty years (till the Taff Vale decision in 1901, the older view being restored by the Trades Disputes Act 1906) considered to give to the trade unions the advantages of a corporation without the drawbacks. At the same time, through a better law of small partnerships (Industrial and Provident Societies Acts 1852, 1862, 1876), the co-operative societies were making rapid progress. Compulsory education (1870) increased the intelligence of the labouring classes and therewith their power to use their opportunities. Labour legislation, removing truck, making inspection and regulation of factories more stringent (see the consolidating Act of 1878 and the Factory and Workshop Act 1901) and providing compensation for accidents (1906), was forwarded by both political parties. This was not socialism but regulation. The old unionists were