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Title: Signs of Change
Author: Morris, William
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1896 Longmans, Green, and Co. edition by David
Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org

                             SIGNS OF CHANGE

                              Seven Lectures


                                * * * * *


                              WILLIAM MORRIS
                     AUTHOR OF “THE EARTHLY PARADISE”

                                * * * * *

                         LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
                       LONDON, NEW YORK, AND BOMBAY

                          _All rights reserved_


FEUDAL ENGLAND                            55
THE HOPES OF CIVILIZATION                 84
THE AIMS OF ART                          117
DAWN OF A NEW EPOCH                      174


THE word Revolution, which we Socialists are so often forced to use, has
a terrible sound in most people’s ears, even when we have explained to
them that it does not necessarily mean a change accompanied by riot and
all kinds of violence, and cannot mean a change made mechanically and in
the teeth of opinion by a group of men who have somehow managed to seize
on the executive power for the moment.  Even when we explain that we use
the word revolution in its etymological sense, and mean by it a change in
the basis of society, people are scared at the idea of such a vast
change, and beg that you will speak of reform and not revolution.  As,
however, we Socialists do not at all mean by our word revolution what
these worthy people mean by their word reform, I can’t help thinking that
it would be a mistake to use it, whatever projects we might conceal
beneath its harmless envelope.  So we will stick to our word, which means
a change of the basis of society; it may frighten people, but it will at
least warn them that there is something to be frightened about, which
will be no less dangerous for being ignored; and also it may encourage
some people, and will mean to them at least not a fear, but a hope.

Fear and Hope—those are the names of the two great passions which rule
the race of man, and with which revolutionists have to deal; to give hope
to the many oppressed and fear to the few oppressors, that is our
business; if we do the first and give hope to the many, the few _must_ be
frightened by their hope; otherwise we do not want to frighten them; it
is not revenge we want for poor people, but happiness; indeed, what
revenge can be taken for all the thousands of years of the sufferings of
the poor?

However, many of the oppressors of the poor, most of them, we will say,
are not conscious of their being oppressors (we shall see why presently);
they live in an orderly, quiet way themselves, as far as possible removed
from the feelings of a Roman slave-owner or a Legree; they know that the
poor exist, but their sufferings do not present themselves to them in a
trenchant and dramatic way; they themselves have troubles to bear, and
they think doubtless that to bear trouble is the lot of humanity, nor
have they any means of comparing the troubles of their lives with those
of people lower in the social scale; and if ever the thought of those
heavier troubles obtrudes itself upon them, they console themselves with
the maxim that people do get used to the troubles they have to bear,
whatever they may be.

Indeed, as far as regards individuals at least, that is but too true, so
that we have as supporters of the present state of things, however bad it
may be, first those comfortable unconscious oppressors who think that
they have everything to fear from any change which would involve more
than the softest and most gradual of reforms, and secondly those poor
people who, living hard and anxiously as they do, can hardly conceive of
any change for the better happening to them, and dare not risk one tittle
of their poor possessions in taking any action towards a possible
bettering of their condition; so that while we can do little with the
rich save inspire them with fear, it is hard indeed to give the poor any
hope.  It is, then, no less than reasonable that those whom we try to
involve in the great struggle for a better form of life than that which
we now lead should call on us to give them at least some idea of what
that life may be like.

A reasonable request, but hard to satisfy, since we are living under a
system that makes conscious effort towards reconstruction almost
impossible: it is not unreasonable on our part to answer, “There are
certain definite obstacles to the real progress of man; we can tell you
what these are; take them away, and then you shall see.”

However, I purpose now to offer myself as a victim for the satisfaction
of those who consider that as things now go we have at least got
something, and are terrified at the idea of losing their hold of that,
lest they should find they are worse off than before, and have nothing.
Yet in the course of my endeavour to show how we might live, I must more
or less deal in negatives.  I mean to say I must point out where in my
opinion we fall short in our present attempts at decent life.  I must ask
the rich and well-to-do what sort of a position it is which they are so
anxious to preserve at any cost? and if, after all, it will be such a
terrible loss to them to give it up? and I must point out to the poor
that they, with capacities for living a dignified and generous life, are
in a position which they cannot endure without continued degradation.

How do we live, then, under our present system?  Let us look at it a

And first, please to understand that our present system of Society is
based on a state of perpetual war.  Do any of you think that this is as
it should be?  I know that you have often been told that the competition,
which is at present the rule of all production, is a good thing, and
stimulates the progress of the race; but the people who tell you this
should call competition by its shorter name of _war_ if they wish to be
honest, and you would then be free to consider whether or no war
stimulates progress, otherwise than as a mad bull chasing you over your
own garden may do.  War or competition, whichever you please to call it,
means at the best pursuing your own advantage at the cost of some one
else’s loss, and in the process of it you must not be sparing of
destruction even of your own possessions, or you will certainly come by
the worse in the struggle.  You understand that perfectly as to the kind
of war in which people go out to kill and be killed; that sort of war in
which ships are commissioned, for instance, “to sink, burn, and destroy;”
but it appears that you are not so conscious of this waste of goods when
you are only carrying on that other war called _commerce_; observe,
however, that the waste is there all the same.

Now let us look at this kind of war a little closer, run through some of
the forms of it, that we may see how the “burn, sink, and destroy” is
carried on in it.

First, you have that form of it called national rivalry, which in good
truth is nowadays the cause of all gunpowder and bayonet wars which
civilized nations wage.  For years past we English have been rather shy
of them, except on those happy occasions when we could carry them on at
no sort of risk to ourselves, when the killing was all on one side, or at
all events when we hoped it would be.  We have been shy of gunpowder war
with a respectable enemy for a long while, and I will tell you why: It is
because we have had the lion’s-share of the world-market; we didn’t want
to fight for it as a nation, for we had got it; but now this is changing
in a most significant, and, to a Socialist, a most cheering way; we are
losing or have lost that lion’s share; it is now a desperate
“competition” between the great nations of civilization for the
world-market, and to-morrow it may be a desperate war for that end.  As a
result, the furthering of war (if it be not on too large a scale) is no
longer confined to the honour-and-glory kind of old Tories, who if they
meant anything at all by it meant that a Tory war would be a good
occasion for damping down democracy; we have changed all that, and now it
is quite another kind of politician that is wont to urge us on to
“patriotism” as ’tis called.  The leaders of the Progressive Liberals, as
they would call themselves, long-headed persons who know well enough that
social movements are going on, who are not blind to the fact that the
world will move with their help or without it; these have been the
Jingoes of these later days.  I don’t mean to say they know what they are
doing: politicians, as you well know, take good care to shut their eyes
to everything that may happen six months ahead; but what is being done is
this: that the present system, which always must include national
rivalry, is pushing us into a desperate scramble for the markets on more
or less equal terms with other nations, because, once more, we have lost
that command of them which we once had.  Desperate is not too strong a
word.  We shall let this impulse to snatch markets carry us whither it
will, whither it must.  To-day it is successful burglary and disgrace,
to-morrow it may be mere defeat and disgrace.

Now this is not a digression, although in saying this I am nearer to what
is generally called politics than I shall be again.  I only want to show
you what commercial war comes to when it has to do with foreign nations,
and that even the dullest can see how mere waste must go with it.  That
is how we live now with foreign nations, prepared to ruin them without
war if possible, with it if necessary, let alone meantime the disgraceful
exploiting of savage tribes and barbarous peoples, on whom we force at
once our shoddy wares and our hypocrisy at the cannon’s mouth.

Well, surely Socialism can offer you something in the place of all that.
It can; it can offer you peace and friendship instead of war.  We might
live utterly without national rivalries, acknowledging that while it is
best for those who feel that they naturally form a community under one
name to govern themselves, yet that no community in civilization should
feel that it had interests opposed any other, their economical condition
being at any rate similar; so that any citizen of one community could
fall to work and live without disturbance of his life when he was in a
foreign country, and would fit into his place quite naturally; so that
all civilized nations would form one great community, agreeing together
as to the kind and amount of production and distribution needed; working
at such and such production where it could be best produced; avoiding
waste by all means.  Please to think of the amount of waste which they
would avoid, how much such a revolution would add to the wealth of the
world!  What creature on earth would be harmed by such a revolution?
Nay, would not everybody be the better for it?  And what hinders it?  I
will tell you presently.

Meantime let us pass from this “competition” between nations to that
between “the organizers of labour,” great firms, joint-stock companies;
capitalists in short, and see how competition “stimulates production”
among them: indeed it does do that; but what kind of production?  Well,
production of something to sell at a profit, or say production of
profits: and note how war commercial stimulates that: a certain market is
demanding goods; there are, say, a hundred manufacturers who make that
kind of goods, and every one of them would if he could keep that market
to himself; and struggles desperately to get as much of it as he can,
with the obvious result that presently the thing is overdone, and the
market is glutted, and all that fury of manufacture has to sink into cold
ashes.  Doesn’t that seem something like war to you?  Can’t you see the
waste of it—waste of labour, skill, cunning, waste of life in short?
Well, you may say, but it cheapens the goods.  In a sense it does; and
yet only apparently, as wages have a tendency to sink for the ordinary
worker in proportion as prices sink; and at what a cost do we gain this
appearance of cheapness!  Plainly speaking, at the cost of cheating the
consumer and starving the real producer for the benefit of the gambler,
who uses both consumer and producer as his milch cows.  I needn’t go at
length into the subject of adulteration, for every one knows what kind of
a part it plays in this sort of commerce; but remember that it is an
absolutely necessary incident to the production of profit out of wares,
which is the business of the so-called manufacturer; and this you must
understand, that, taking him in the lump, the consumer is perfectly
helpless against the gambler; the goods are forced on him by their
cheapness, and with them a certain kind of life which that energetic,
that aggressive cheapness determines for him: for so far-reaching is this
curse of commercial war that no country is safe from its ravages; the
traditions of a thousand years fall before it in a month; it overruns a
weak or semi-barbarous country, and whatever romance or pleasure or art
existed there, is trodden down into a mire of sordidness and ugliness;
the Indian or Javanese craftsman may no longer ply his craft leisurely,
working a few hours a day, in producing a maze of strange beauty on a
piece of cloth: a steam-engine is set a-going at Manchester, and that
victory over nature and a thousand stubborn difficulties is used for the
base work of producing a sort of plaster of china-clay and shoddy, and
the Asiatic worker, if he is not starved to death outright, as
plentifully happens, is driven himself into a factory to lower the wages
of his Manchester brother worker, and nothing of character is left him
except, most like, an accumulation of fear and hatred of that to him most
unaccountable evil, his English master.  The South Sea Islander must
leave his canoe-carving, his sweet rest, and his graceful dances, and
become the slave of a slave: trousers, shoddy, rum, missionary, and fatal
disease—he must swallow all this civilization in the lump, and neither
himself nor we can help him now till social order displaces the hideous
tyranny of gambling that has ruined him.

Let those be types of the consumer: but now for the producer; I mean the
real producer, the worker; how does this scramble for the plunder of the
market affect him?  The manufacturer, in the eagerness of his war, has
had to collect into one neighbourhood a vast army of workers, he has
drilled them till they are as fit as may be for his special branch of
production, that is, for making a profit out of it, and with the result
of their being fit for nothing else: well, when the glut comes in that
market he is supplying, what happens to this army, every private in which
has been depending on the steady demand in that market, and acting, as he
could not choose but act, as if it were to go on for ever?  You know well
what happens to these men: the factory door is shut on them; on a very
large part of them often, and at the best on the reserve army of labour,
so busily employed in the time of inflation.  What becomes of them?  Nay,
we know that well enough just now.  But what we don’t know, or don’t
choose to know, is, that this reserve army of labour is an absolute
necessity for commercial war; if _our_ manufacturers had not got these
poor devils whom they could draft on to their machines when the demand
swelled, other manufacturers in France, or Germany, or America, would
step in and take the market from them.

So you see, as we live now, it is necessary that a vast part of the
industrial population should be exposed to the danger of periodical
semi-starvation, and that, not for the advantage of the people in another
part of the world, but for their degradation and enslavement.

Just let your minds run for a moment on the kind of waste which this
means, this opening up of new markets among savage and barbarous
countries which is the extreme type of the force of the profit-market on
the world, and you will surely see what a hideous nightmare that
profit-market is: it keeps us sweating and terrified for our livelihood,
unable to read a book, or look at a picture, or have pleasant fields to
walk in, or to lie in the sun, or to share in the knowledge of our time,
to have in short either animal or intellectual pleasure, and for what?
that we may go on living the same slavish life till we die, in order to
provide for a rich man what is called a life of ease and luxury; that is
to say, a life so empty, unwholesome, and degraded, that perhaps, on the
whole, he is worse off than we the workers are: and as to the result of
all this suffering, it is luckiest when it is nothing at all, when you
can say that the wares have done nobody any good; for oftenest they have
done many people harm, and we have toiled and groaned and died in making
poison and destruction for our fellow-men.

Well, I say all this is war, and the results of war, the war this time,
not of competing nations, but of competing firms or capitalist units: and
it is this war of the firms which hinders the peace between nations which
you surely have agreed with me in thinking is so necessary; for you must
know that war is the very breath of the nostrils of these fighting firms,
and they have now, in our times, got into their hands nearly all the
political power, and they band together in each country in order to make
their respective governments fulfil just two functions: the first is at
home to act as a strong police force, to keep the ring in which the
strong are beating down the weak; the second is to act as a piratical
body-guard abroad, a petard to explode the doors which lead to the
markets of the world: markets at any price abroad, uninterfered-with
privilege, falsely called _laissez-faire_, {13} at any price at home, to
provide these is the sole business of a government such as our industrial
captains have been able to conceive of.  I must now try to show you the
reason of all this, and what it rests on, by trying to answer the
question, Why have the profit-makers got all this power, or at least why
are they able to keep it?

That takes us to the third form of war commercial: the last, and, the one
which all the rest is founded on.  We have spoken first of the war of
rival nations; next of that of rival firms: we have now to speak of rival
men.  As nations under the present system are driven to compete with one
another for the markets of the world, and as firms or the captains of
industry have to scramble for their share of the profits of the markets,
so also have the workers to compete with each other—for livelihood; and
it is this constant competition or war amongst them which enables the
profit-grinders to make their profits, and by means of the wealth so
acquired to take all the executive power of the country into their hands.
But here is the difference between the position of the workers and the
profit-makers: to the latter, the profit-grinders, war is necessary; you
cannot have profit-making without competition, individual, corporate, and
national; but you may work for a livelihood without competing; you may
combine instead of competing.

I have said war was the life-breath of the profit-makers; in like manner,
combination is the life of the workers.  The working-classes or
proletariat cannot even exist as a class without combination of some
sort.  The necessity which forced the profit-grinders to collect their
men first into workshops working by the division of labour, and next into
great factories worked by machinery, and so gradually to draw them into
the great towns and centres of civilization, gave birth to a distinct
working-class or proletariat: and this it was which gave them their
_mechanical_ existence, so to say.  But note, that they are indeed
combined into social groups for the production of wares, but only as yet
mechanically; they do not know what they are working at, nor whom they
are working for, because they are combining to produce wares of which the
profit of a master forms an essential part, instead of goods for their
own use: as long as they do this, and compete with each other for leave
to do it, they will be, and will feel themselves to be, simply a part of
those competing firms I have been speaking of; they will be in fact just
a part of the machinery for the production of profit; and so long as this
lasts it will be the aim of the masters or profit-makers to decrease the
market value of this human part of the machinery; that is to say, since
they already hold in their hands the labour of dead men in the form of
capital and machinery, it is their interest, or we will say their
necessity, to pay as little as they can help for the labour of living men
which they have to buy from day to day: and since the workmen they employ
have nothing but their labour-power, they are compelled to underbid one
another for employment and wages, and so enable the capitalist to play
his game.

I have said that, as things go, the workers are a part of the competing
firms, an adjunct of capital.  Nevertheless, they are only so by
compulsion; and, even without their being conscious of it, they struggle
against that compulsion and its immediate results, the lowering of their
wages, of their standard of life; and this they do, and must do, both as
a class and individually: just as the slave of the great Roman lord,
though he distinctly felt himself to be a part of the household, yet
collectively was a force in reserve for its destruction, and individually
stole from his lord whenever he could safely do so.  So, here, you see,
is another form of war necessary to the way we live now, the war of class
against class, which, when it rises to its height, and it seems to be
rising at present, will destroy those other forms of war we have been
speaking of; will make the position of the profit-makers, of perpetual
commercial war, untenable; will destroy the present system of competitive
privilege, or commercial war.

Now observe, I said that to the existence of the workers it was
combination, not competition, that was necessary, while to that of the
profit-makers combination was impossible, and war necessary.  The present
position of the workers is that of the machinery of commerce, or in
plainer words its slaves; when they change that position and become free,
the class of profit-makers must cease to exist; and what will then be the
position of the workers?  Even as it is they are the one necessary part
of society, the life-giving part; the other classes are but hangers-on
who live on them.  But what should they be, what will they be, when they,
once for all, come to know their real power, and cease competing with one
another for livelihood?  I will tell you: they will be society, they will
be the community.  And being society—that is, there being no class
outside them to contend with—they can then regulate their labour in
accordance with their own real needs.

There is much talk about supply and demand, but the supply and demand
usually meant is an artificial one; it is under the sway of the gambling
market; the demand is forced, as I hinted above, before it is supplied;
nor, as each producer is working against all the rest, can the producers
hold their hands, till the market is glutted and the workers, thrown out
on the streets, hear that there has been over-production, amidst which
over-plus of unsaleable goods they go ill-supplied with even necessaries,
because the wealth which they themselves have created is
“ill-distributed,” as we call it—that is, unjustly taken away from them.

When the workers are society they will regulate their labour, so that the
supply and demand shall be genuine, not gambling; the two will then be
commensurate, for it is the same society which demands that also
supplies; there will be no more artificial famines then, no more poverty
amidst over-production, amidst too great a stock of the very things which
should supply poverty and turn it into well-being.  In short, there will
be no waste and therefore no tyranny.

Well, now, what Socialism offers you in place of these artificial
famines, with their so-called over-production, is, once more, regulation
of the markets; supply and demand commensurate; no gambling, and
consequently (once more) no waste; not overwork and weariness for the
worker one month, and the next no work and terror of starvation, but
steady work and plenty of leisure every month; not cheap market wares,
that is to say, adulterated wares, with scarcely any _good_ in them, mere
scaffold-poles for building up profits; no labour would be spent on such
things as these, which people would cease to want when they ceased to be
slaves.  Not these, but such goods as best fulfilled the real uses of the
consumers, would labour be set to make; for profit being abolished,
people could have what they wanted, instead of what the profit-grinders
at home and abroad forced them to take.

For what I want you to understand is this: that in every civilized
country at least there is plenty for all—is, or at any rate might be.
Even with labour so misdirected as it is at present, an equitable
distribution of the wealth we have would make all people comparatively
comfortable; but that is nothing to the wealth we might have if labour
were not misdirected.

Observe, in the early days of the history of man he was the slave of his
most immediate necessities; Nature was mighty and he was feeble, and he
had to wage constant war with her for his daily food and such shelter as
he could get.  His life was bound down and limited by this constant
struggle; all his morals, laws, religion, are in fact the outcome and the
reflection of this ceaseless toil of earning his livelihood.  Time
passed, and little by little, step by step, he grew stronger, till now
after all these ages he has almost completely conquered Nature, and one
would think should now have leisure to turn his thoughts towards higher
things than procuring to-morrow’s dinner.  But, alas! his progress has
been broken and halting; and though he has indeed conquered Nature and
has her forces under his control to do what he will with, he still has
himself to conquer, he still has to think how he will best use those
forces which he has mastered.  At present he uses them blindly,
foolishly, as one driven by mere fate.  It would almost seem as if some
phantom of the ceaseless pursuit of food which was once the master of the
savage was still hunting the civilized man; who toils in a dream, as it
were, haunted by mere dim unreal hopes, borne of vague recollections of
the days gone by.  Out of that dream he must wake, and face things as
they really are.  The conquest of Nature is complete, may we not say? and
now our business is, and has for long been, the organization of man, who
wields the forces of Nature.  Nor till this is attempted at least shall
we ever be free of that terrible phantom of fear of starvation which,
with its brother devil, desire of domination, drives us into injustice,
cruelty, and dastardliness of all kinds: to cease to fear our fellows and
learn to depend on them, to do away with competition and build up
co-operation, is our one necessity.

Now, to get closer to details; you probably know that every man in
civilization is worth, so to say, more than his skin; working, as he must
work, socially, he can produce more than will keep himself alive and in
fair condition; and this has been so for many centuries, from the time,
in fact, when warring tribes began to make their conquered enemies slaves
instead of killing them; and of course his capacity of producing these
extras has gone on increasing faster and faster, till to-day one man will
weave, for instance, as much cloth in a week as will clothe a whole
village for years: and the real question of civilization has always been
what are we to do with this extra produce of labour—a question which the
phantom, fear of starvation, and its fellow, desire of domination, has
driven men to answer pretty badly always, and worst of all perhaps in
these present days, when the extra produce has grown with such prodigious
speed.  The practical answer has always been for man to struggle with his
fellow for private possession of undue shares of these extras, and all
kinds of devices have been employed by those who found themselves in
possession of the power of taking them from others to keep those whom
they had robbed in perpetual subjection; and these latter, as I have
already hinted, had no chance of resisting this fleecing as long as they
were few and scattered, and consequently could have little sense of their
common oppression.  But now that, owing to the very pursuit of these
undue shares of profit, or extra earnings, men have become more dependent
on each other for production, and have been driven, as I said before, to
combine together for that end more completely, the power of the
workers—that is to say, of the robbed or fleeced class—has enormously
increased, and it only remains for them to understand that they have this
power.  When they do that they will be able to give the right answer to
the question what is to be done with the extra products of labour over
and above what will keep the labourer alive to labour: which answer is,
that the worker will have all that he produces, and not be fleeced at
all: and remember that he produces collectively, and therefore he will do
effectively what work is required of him according to his capacity, and
of the produce of that work he will have what he needs; because, you see,
he cannot _use_ more than he needs—he can only _waste_ it.

If this arrangement seems to you preposterously ideal, as it well may,
looking at our present condition, I must back it up by saying that when
men are organized so that their labour is not wasted, they will be
relieved from the fear of starvation and the desire of domination, and
will have freedom and leisure to look round and see what they really do

Now something of that I can conceive for my own self, and I will lay my
ideas before you, so that you may compare them with your own, asking you
always to remember that the very differences in men’s capacities and
desires, after the common need of food and shelter is satisfied, will
make it easier to deal with their desires in a communal state of things.

What is it that I need, therefore, which my surrounding circumstances can
give me—my dealings with my fellow-men—setting aside inevitable accidents
which co-operation and forethought cannot control, if there be such?

Well, first of all I claim good health; and I say that a vast proportion
of people in civilization scarcely even know what that means.  To feel
mere life a pleasure; to enjoy the moving one’s limbs and exercising
one’s bodily powers; to play, as it were, with sun and wind and rain; to
rejoice in satisfying the due bodily appetites of a human animal without
fear of degradation or sense of wrong-doing: yes, and therewithal to be
well formed, straight-limbed, strongly knit, expressive of countenance—to
be, in a word, beautiful—that also I claim.  If we cannot have this claim
satisfied, we are but poor creatures after all; and I claim it in the
teeth of those terrible doctrines of asceticism, which, born of the
despair of the oppressed and degraded, have been for so many ages used as
instruments for the continuance of that oppression and degradation.

And I believe that this claim for a healthy body for all of us carries
with it all other due claims: for who knows where the seeds of disease
which even rich people suffer from were first sown: from the luxury of an
ancestor, perhaps; yet often, I suspect, from his poverty.  And for the
poor: a distinguished physicist has said that the poor suffer always from
one disease—hunger; and at least I know this, that if a man is overworked
in any degree he cannot enjoy the sort of health I am speaking of; nor
can he if he is continually chained to one dull round of mechanical work,
with no hope at the other end of it; nor if he lives in continual sordid
anxiety for his livelihood, nor if he is ill-housed, nor if he is
deprived of all enjoyment of the natural beauty of the world, nor if he
has no amusement to quicken the flow of his spirits from time to time:
all these things, which touch more or less directly on his bodily
condition, are born of the claim I make to live in good health; indeed, I
suspect that these good conditions must have been in force for several
generations before a population in general will be really healthy, as I
have hinted above; but also I doubt not that in the course of time they
would, joined to other conditions, of which more hereafter, gradually
breed such a population, living in enjoyment of animal life at least,
happy therefore, and beautiful according to the beauty of their race.  On
this point I may note that the very variations in the races of men are
caused by the conditions under which they live, and though in these
rougher parts of the world we lack some of the advantages of climate and
surroundings, yet, if we were working for livelihood and not for profit,
we might easily neutralize many of the disadvantages of our climate, at
least enough give due scope to the full development of our race.

Now the next thing I claim is education.  And you must not say that every
English child is educated now; that sort of education will not answer my
claim, though I cheerfully admit it is something: something, and yet
after all only class education.  What I claim is liberal education;
opportunity, that is, to have my share of whatever knowledge there is in
the world according to my capacity or bent of mind, historical or
scientific; and also to have my share of skill of hand which is about in
the world, either in the industrial handicrafts or in the fine arts;
picture-painting, sculpture, music, acting, or the like: I claim to be
taught, if I can be taught, more than one craft to exercise for the
benefit of the community.  You may think this a large claim, but I am
clear it is not too large a claim if the community is to have any gain
out of my special capacities, if we are not all to be beaten down to a
dull level of mediocrity as we are now, all but the very strongest and
toughest of us.

But also I know that this claim for education involves one for public
advantages in the shape of public libraries, schools, and the like, such
as no private person, not even the richest, could command: but these I
claim very confidently, being sure that no reasonable community could
bear to be without such helps to a decent life.

Again, the claim for education involves a claim for abundant leisure,
which once more I make with confidence; because when once we have shaken
off the slavery of profit, labour would be organized so unwastefully that
no heavy burden would be laid on the individual citizens; every one of
whom as a matter of course would have to pay his toll of some obviously
useful work.  At present you must note that all the amazing machinery
which we have invented has served only to increase the amount of
profit-bearing wares; in other words, to increase the amount of profit
pouched by individuals for their own advantage, part of which profit they
use as capital for the production of more profit, with ever the same
waste attached to it; and part as private riches or means for luxurious
living, which again is sheer waste—is in fact to be looked on as a kind
of bonfire on which rich men burn up the product of the labour they have
fleeced from the workers beyond what they themselves can use.  So I say
that, in spite of our inventions, no worker works under the present
system an hour the less on account of those labour-saving machines,
so-called.  But under a happier state of things they would be used simply
for saving labour, with the result of a vast amount of leisure gained for
the community to be added to that gained by the avoidance of the waste of
useless luxury, and the abolition of the service of commercial war.

And I may say that as to that leisure, as I should in no case do any harm
to any one with it, so I should often do some direct good to the
community with it, by practising arts or occupations for my hands or
brain which would give pleasure to many of the citizens; in other words,
a great deal of the best work done would be done in the leisure time of
men relieved from any anxiety as to their livelihood, and eager to
exercise their special talent, as all men, nay, all animals are.

Now, again, this leisure would enable me to please myself and expand my
mind by travelling if I had a mind to it: because, say, for instance,
that I were a shoemaker; if due social order were established, it by no
means follows that I should always be obliged to make shoes in one place;
a due amount of easily conceivable arrangement would enable me to make
shoes in Rome, say, for three months, and to come back with new ideas of
building, gathered from the sight of the works of past ages, amongst
other things which would perhaps be of service in London.

But now, in order that my leisure might not degenerate into idleness and
aimlessness, I must set up a claim for due work to do.  Nothing to my
mind is more important than this demand, and I must ask your leave to say
something about it.  I have mentioned that I should probably use my
leisure for doing a good deal of what is now called work; but it is clear
that if I am a member of a Socialist Community I must do my due share of
rougher work than this—my due share of what my capacity enables me to do,
that is; no fitting of me to a Procrustean bed; but even that share of
work necessary to the existence of the simplest social life must, in the
first place, whatever else it is, be reasonable work; that is, it must be
such work as a good citizen can see the necessity for; as a member of the
community, I must have agreed to do it.

To take two strong instances of the contrary, I won’t submit to be
dressed up in red and marched off to shoot at my French or German or Arab
friend in a quarrel that I don’t understand; I will rebel sooner than do

Nor will I submit to waste my time and energies in making some trifling
toy which I know only a fool can desire; I will rebel sooner than do

However, you may be sure that in a state of social order I shall have no
need to rebel against any such pieces of unreason; only I am forced to
speak from the way we live to the way we might live.

Again, if the necessary reasonable work be of a mechanical kind, I must
be helped to do it by a machine, not to cheapen my labour, but so that as
little time as possible may be spent upon it, and that I may be able to
think of other things while am tending the machine.  And if the work be
specially rough or exhausting, you will, I am sure, agree with me in
saying that I must take turns in doing it with other people; I mean I
mustn’t, for instance, be expected to spend my working hours always at
the bottom of a coal-pit.  I think such work as that ought to be largely
volunteer work, and done, as I say, in spells.  And what I say of very
rough work I say also of nasty work.  On the other hand, I should think
very little of the manhood of a stout and healthy man who did not feel a
pleasure in doing rough work; always supposing him to work under the
conditions I have been speaking of—namely, feeling that it was useful
(and consequently honoured), and that it was not continuous or hopeless,
and that he was really doing it of his own free will.

The last claim I make for my work is that the places I worked in,
factories or workshops, should be pleasant, just as the fields where our
most necessary work is done are pleasant.  Believe me there is nothing in
the world to prevent this being done, save the necessity of making
profits on all wares; in other words, the wares are cheapened at the
expense of people being forced to work in crowded, unwholesome, squalid,
noisy dens: that is to say, they are cheapened at the expense of the
workman’s life.

Well, so much for my claims as to my _necessary_ work, my tribute to the
community.  I believe people would find, as they advanced in their
capacity for carrying on social order, that life so lived was much less
expensive than we now can have any idea of; and that, after a little,
people would rather be anxious to seek work than to avoid it; that our
working hours would rather be merry parties of men and maids, young men
and old enjoying themselves over their work, than the grumpy weariness it
mostly is now.  Then would come the time for the new birth of art, so
much talked of, so long deferred; people could not help showing their
mirth and pleasure in their work, and would be always wishing to express
it in a tangible and more or less enduring form, and the workshop would
once more be a school of art, whose influence no one could escape from.

And, again, that word art leads me to my last claim, which is that the
material surroundings of my life should be pleasant, generous, and
beautiful; that I know is a large claim, but this I will say about it,
that if it cannot be satisfied, if every civilized community cannot
provide such surroundings for all its members, I do not want the world to
go on; it is a mere misery that man has ever existed.  I do not think it
possible under the present circumstances to speak too strongly on this
point.  I feel sure that the time will come when people will find it
difficult to believe that a rich community such as ours, having such
command over external Nature, could have submitted to live such a mean,
shabby, dirty life as we do.

And once for all, there is nothing in our circumstances save the hunting
of profit that drives us into it.  It is profit which draws men into
enormous unmanageable aggregations called towns, for instance; profit
which crowds them up when they are there into quarters without gardens or
open spaces; profit which won’t take the most ordinary precautions
against wrapping a whole district in a cloud of sulphurous smoke; which
turns beautiful rivers into filthy sewers; which condemns all but the
rich to live in houses idiotically cramped and confined at the best, and
at the worst in houses for whose wretchedness there is no name.

I say it is almost incredible that we should bear such crass stupidity as
this; nor should we if we could help it.  We shall not bear it when the
workers get out of their heads that they are but an appendage to
profit-grinding, that the more profits that are made the more employment
at high wages there will be for them, and that therefore all the
incredible filth, disorder, and degradation of modern civilization are
signs of their prosperity.  So far from that, they are signs of their
slavery.  When they are no longer slaves they will claim as a matter of
course that every man and every family should be generously lodged; that
every child should be able to play in a garden close to the place his
parents live in; that the houses should by their obvious decency and
order be ornaments to Nature, not disfigurements of it; for the decency
and order above-mentioned when carried to the due pitch would most
assuredly lead to beauty in building.  All this, of course, would mean
the people—that is, all society—duly organized, having in its own hands
the means of production, to be _owned_ by no individual, but used by all
as occasion called for its use, and can only be done on those terms; on
any other terms people will be driven to accumulate private wealth for
themselves, and thus, as we have seen, to waste the goods of the
community and perpetuate the division into classes, which means continual
war and waste.

As to what extent it may be necessary or desirable for people under
social order to live in common, we may differ pretty much according to
our tendencies towards social life.  For my part I can’t see why we
should think it a hardship to eat with the people we work with; I am sure
that as to many things, such as valuable books, pictures, and splendour
of surroundings, we shall find it better to club our means together; and
I must say that often when I have been sickened by the stupidity of the
mean idiotic rabbit warrens that rich men build for themselves in
Bayswater and elsewhere, I console myself with visions of the noble
communal hall of the future, unsparing of materials, generous in worthy
ornament, alive with the noblest thoughts of our time, and the past,
embodied in the best art which a free and manly people could produce;
such an abode of man as no private enterprise could come anywhere near
for beauty and fitness, because only collective thought and collective
life could cherish the aspirations which would give birth to its beauty,
or have the skill and leisure to carry them out.  I for my part should
think it much the reverse of a hardship if I had to read my books and
meet my friends in such a place; nor do I think I am better off to live
in a vulgar stuccoed house crowded with upholstery that I despise, in all
respects degrading to the mind and enervating to the body to live in,
simply because I call it my own, or my house.

It is not an original remark, but I make it here, that my home is where I
meet people with whom I sympathise, whom I love.

Well, that is my opinion as a middle-class man.  Whether a working-class
man would think his family possession of his wretched little room better
than his share of the palace of which I have spoken, I must leave to his
opinion, and to the imaginations of the middle class, who perhaps may
sometimes conceive the fact that the said worker is cramped for space and
comfort—say on washing-day.

Before I leave this matter of the surroundings of life, I wish to meet a
possible objection.  I have spoken of machinery being used freely for
releasing people from the more mechanical and repulsive part of necessary
labour; and I know that to some cultivated people, people of the artistic
turn of mind, machinery is particularly distasteful, and they will be apt
to say you will never get your surroundings pleasant so long as you are
surrounded by machinery.  I don’t quite admit that; it is the allowing
machines to be our masters and not our servants that so injures the
beauty of life nowadays.  In other words, it is the token of the terrible
crime we have fallen into of using our control of the powers of Nature
for the purpose of enslaving people, we careless meantime of how much
happiness we rob their lives of.

Yet for the consolation of the artists I will say that I believe indeed
that a state of social order would probably lead at first to a great
development of machinery for really useful purposes, because people will
still be anxious about getting through the work necessary to holding
society together; but that after a while they will find that there is not
so much work to do as they expected, and that then they will have leisure
to reconsider the whole subject; and if it seems to them that a certain
industry would be carried on more pleasantly as regards the worker, and
more effectually as regards the goods, by using hand-work rather than
machinery, they will certainly get rid of their machinery, because it
will be possible for them to do so.  It isn’t possible now; we are not at
liberty to do so; we are slaves to the monsters which we have created.
And I have a kind of hope that the very elaboration of machinery in a
society whose purpose is not the multiplication of labour, as it now is,
but the carrying on of a pleasant life, as it would be under social
order—that the elaboration of machinery, I say, will lead the
simplification of life, and so once more to the limitation of machinery.

Well, I will now let my claims for decent life stand as I have made them.
To sum them up in brief, they are: First, a healthy body; second, an
active mind in sympathy with the past, the present, and the future;
thirdly, occupation fit for a healthy body and an active mind; and
fourthly, a beautiful world to live in.

These are the conditions of life which the refined man of all ages has
set before him as the thing above all others to be attained.  Too often
he has been so foiled in their pursuit that he has turned longing eyes
backward to the days before civilization, when man’s sole business was
getting himself food from day to day, and hope was dormant in him, or at
least could not be expressed by him.

Indeed, if civilization (as many think) forbids the realization of the
hope to attain such conditions of life, then civilization forbids mankind
to be happy; and if that be the case, then let us stifle all aspirations
towards progress—nay, all feelings of mutual good-will and affection
between men—and snatch each one of us what we can from the heap of wealth
that fools create for rogues to grow fat on; or better still, let us as
speedily as possible find some means of dying like men, since we are
forbidden to live like men.

Rather, however, take courage, and believe that we of this age, in spite
of all its torment and disorder, have been born to a wonderful heritage
fashioned of the work of those that have gone before us; and that the day
of the organization of man is dawning.  It is not we who can build up the
new social order; the past ages have done the most of that work for us;
but we can clear our eyes to the signs of the times, and we shall then
see that the attainment of a good condition of life is being made
possible for us, and that it is now our business to stretch out our hands
to take it.

And how?  Chiefly, I think, by educating people to a sense of their real
capacities as men, so that they may be able to use to their own good the
political power which is rapidly being thrust upon them; to get them to
see that the old system of organizing labour _for individual profit_ is
becoming unmanageable, and that the whole people have now got to choose
between the confusion resulting from the break up of that system and the
determination to take in hand the labour now organized for profit, and
use its organization for the livelihood of the community: to get people
to see that individual profit-makers are not a necessity for labour but
an obstruction to it, and that not only or chiefly because they are the
perpetual pensioners of labour, as they are, but rather because of the
waste which their existence as a class necessitates.  All this we have to
teach people, when we have taught ourselves; and I admit that the work is
long and burdensome; as I began by saying, people have been made so
timorous of change by the terror of starvation that even the unluckiest
of them are stolid and hard to move.  Hard as the work is, however, its
reward is not doubtful.  The mere fact that a body of men, however small,
are banded together as Socialist missionaries shows that the change is
going on.  As the working-classes, the real organic part of society, take
in these ideas, hope will arise in them, and they will claim changes in
society, many of which doubtless will not tend directly towards their
emancipation, because they will be claimed without due knowledge of the
one thing necessary to claim, _equality of condition_; but which
indirectly will help to break up our rotten sham society, while that
claim for equality of condition will be made constantly and with growing
loudness till it _must_ be listened to, and then at last it will only be
a step over the border and the civilized world will be socialized; and,
looking back on what has been, we shall be astonished to think of how
long we submitted to live as we live now.


WHAT is the state of parties in England to-day?  How shall we enumerate
them?  The Whigs, who stand first on the list in my title, are considered
generally to be the survival of an old historical party once looked on as
having democratic tendencies, but now the hope of all who would stand
soberly on the ancient ways.  Besides these, there are Tories also, the
descendants of the stout defenders of Church and State and the divine
right of kings.

Now, I don’t mean to say but that at the back of this ancient name of
Tory there lies a great mass of genuine Conservative feeling, held by
people who, if they had their own way, would play some rather fantastic
tricks, I fancy; nay, even might in the course of time be somewhat rough
with such people as are in this hall at present. {37b}  But this feeling,
after all, is only a sentiment now; all practical hope has died out of
it, and these worthy people _cannot_ have their own way.  It is true that
they elect members of Parliament, who talk very big to please them, and
sometimes even they manage to get a Government into power that nominally
represents their sentiment, but when that happens the said Government is
forced, even when its party has a majority in the House of Commons, to
take a much lower standpoint than the high Tory ideal; the utmost that
the real Tory party can do, even when backed by the Primrose League and
its sham hierarchy, is to delude the electors to return Tories to
Parliament to pass measures more akin to Radicalism than the Whigs durst
attempt, so that, though there are Tories, there is no Tory party in

On the other hand, there is a party, which I can call for the present by
no other name than Whig, which is both numerous and very powerful, and
which does, in fact, govern England, and to my mind will always do so as
long as the present constitutional Parliament lasts.  Of course, like all
parties it includes men of various shades of opinion, from the
Tory-tinted Whiggery of Lord Salisbury to the Radical-tinted Whiggery of
Mr. Chamberlain’s present tail.  Neither do I mean to say that they are
conscious of being a united party; on the contrary, the groups will
sometimes oppose each other furiously at elections, and perhaps the more
simple-minded of them really think that it is a matter of importance to
the nation which section of them may be in power; but they may always be
reckoned upon to be in their places and vote against any measure which
carries with it a real attack on our constitutional system; surely very
naturally, since they are there for no other purpose than to do so.  They
are, and always must be, conscious defenders of the present system,
political and economical, as long as they have any cohesion as Tories,
Whigs, Liberals, or even Radicals.  Not one of them probably would go
such a very short journey towards revolution as the abolition of the
House of Lords.  A one-chamber Parliament would seem to them an impious
horror, and the abolition of the monarchy they would consider a serious
inconvenience to the London tradesman.

Now this is the real Parliamentary Party, at present divided into jarring
sections under the influence of the survival of the party warfare of the
last few generations, but which already shows signs of sinking its
differences so as to offer a solid front of resistance to the growing
instinct which on its side will before long result in a party claiming
full economical as well as political freedom for the whole people.

But is there nothing in Parliament, or seeking entrance to it, except
this variously tinted Whiggery, this Harlequin of Reaction?  Well, inside
Parliament, setting aside the Irish party, which is, we may now well
hope, merely temporarily there, there is not much.  It is not among
people of “wealth and local influence,” who I see are supposed to be the
only available candidates for Parliament of a recognized party, that you
will find the elements of revolution.  We will grant that there are some
few genuine Democrats there, and let them pass.  But outside there are
undoubtedly many who are genuine Democrats, and who have it in their
heads that it is both possible and desirable to capture the
constitutional Parliament and turn it into a real popular assembly,
which, with the people behind it, might lead us peaceably and
constitutionally into the great Revolution which all _thoughtful_ men
desire to bring about; all thoughtful men, that is, who do not belong to
the consciously cynical Tories, _i.e._, men determined, whether it be
just or unjust, good for humanity or bad for it, to keep the people down
as long as they can, which they hope, very naturally, will be as long as
they live.

To capture Parliament and turn it into a popular but constitutional
assembly is, I must conclude, the aspiration of the genuine Democrats
wherever they may be found; that is their idea of the first step of the
Democratic policy.  The questions to be asked of this, as of all other
policies, are first, What is the end proposed by it? and secondly, Are
they likely to succeed?  As to the end proposed, I think there is much
difference of opinion.  Some Democrats would answer from the merely
political point of view, and say: Universal suffrage, payment of members,
annual Parliaments, abolition of the House of Lords, abolition of the
monarchy, and so forth.  I would answer this by saying: After all, these
are not ends, but means to an end; and passing by the fact that the last
two are not constitutional measures, and so could not be brought about
without actual rebellion, I would say if you had gained all these things,
and more, all you would have done would have been to establish the
ascendancy of the Democratic party; having so established it, you would
then have to find out by the usual party means what that Democratic party
meant, and you would find that your triumph in mere politics would lead
you back again exactly to the place you started from.  You would be Whigs
under a different name.  Monarchy, House of Lords, pensions, standing
army, and the rest of it, are only supports to the present social
system—the _privilege_ based on the wages and capital system of
production—and are worth nothing except as supports to it.  If you are
determined to support that system, therefore, you had better leave these
things alone.  The real masters of Society, the real tyrants of the
people, are the Landlords and Capitalists, whom your political triumph
would not interfere with.

Then, as now, there would be a proletariat and a moneyed class.  Then, as
now, it would be possible sometimes for a diligent, energetic man, with
his mind set wholly on such success, to climb out of the proletariat into
the moneyed class, there to sweat as he once was sweated; which, my
friends, is, if you will excuse the word, your ridiculous idea of freedom
of contract.

The sole and utmost success of your policy would be that it might raise
up a strong opposition to the condition of things which it would be your
function to uphold; but most probably such opposition would still be
outside Parliament, and not in it; you would have made a revolution,
probably not without bloodshed, only to show people the necessity for
another revolution the very next day.

Will you think the example of America too trite?  Anyhow, consider it!  A
country with universal suffrage, no king, no House of Lords, no privilege
as you fondly think; only a little standing army, chiefly used for the
murder of red-skins; a democracy after your model; and with all that, a
society corrupt to the core, and at this moment engaged in suppressing
freedom with just the same reckless brutality and blind ignorance as the
Czar of all the Russias uses. {43}

But it will be said, and certainly with much truth, that not all the
Democrats are for mere political reform.  I say that I believe that this
is true, and it is a very important truth too.  I will go farther, and
will say that all those Democrats who can be distinguished from Whigs do
intend social reforms which they hope will somewhat alter the relations
of the classes towards each other; and there is, generally speaking,
amongst Democrats a leaning towards a kind of limited State-Socialism,
and it is through that that they hope to bring about a peaceful
revolution, which, if it does not introduce a condition of equality, will
at least make the workers better off and contented with their lot.

They hope to get a body of representatives elected to Parliament, and by
them to get measure after measure passed which will tend towards this
goal; nor would some of them, perhaps most of them, be discontented if by
this means we could glide into complete State-Socialism.  I think that
the present Democrats are widely tinged with this idea, and to me it is a
matter of hope that it is so; whatever of error there is in it, it means
advance beyond the complete barrenness of the mere political programme.

Yet I must point out to these semi-Socialist Democrats that in the first
place they will be made the cat’s-paw of some of the wilier of the Whigs.
There are several of these measures which look to some Socialistic, as,
for instance, the allotments scheme, and other schemes tending toward
peasant proprietorship, co-operation, and the like, but which after all,
in spite of their benevolent appearance, are really weapons in the hands
of reactionaries, having for their real object the creation of a new
middle-class made out of the working-class and at their expense; the
raising, in short, of a new army against the attack of the disinherited.

There is no end to this kind of dodge, nor will be apparently till there
is an end of the class which tries it on; and a great many of the
Democrats will be amused and absorbed by it from time to time.  They call
this sort of nonsense “practical;” it _seems_ like doing something, while
the steady propaganda of a principle which must prevail in the end is,
according to them, doing nothing, and is unpractical.  For the rest, it
is not likely to become dangerous, further than as it clogs the wheels of
the real movement somewhat, because it is sometimes a mere piece of
reaction, as when, for instance, it takes the form of peasant
proprietorship, flying right in the face of the commercial development of
the day, which tends ever more and more towards the aggregation of
capital, thereby smoothing the way for the organized possession of the
means of production by the workers when the true revolution shall come:
while, on the other hand, when this attempt to manufacture a new
middle-class takes the form of co-operation and the like, it is not
dangerous, because it means nothing more than a slightly altered form of
joint-stockery, and everybody almost is beginning to see this.  The greed
of men stimulated by the spectacle of profit-making all around them, and
also by the burden of the interest on the money which they have been
obliged to borrow, will not allow them even to approach a true system of
co-operation.  Those benefited by the transaction presently become eager
shareholders in a commercial speculation, and if they are working-men, as
they often are, they are also capitalists.  The enormous commercial
success of the great co-operative societies, and the absolute no-effect
of that success on the social conditions of the workers, are sufficient
tokens of what this non-political co-operation must come to: “Nothing—it
shall not be less.”

But again, it may be said, some of the Democrats go farther than this;
they take up actual pieces of Socialism, and are more than inclined to
support them.  Nationalization of the land, or of railways, or cumulative
taxation on incomes, or limiting the right of inheritance, or new factory
laws, or the restriction by law of the day’s labour—one of these, or more
than one sometimes, the Democrats will support, and see absolute
salvation in these one or two planks of the platform.  All this I admit,
and once again say it is a hopeful sign, and yet once again I say there
is a snare in it—a snake lies lurking in the grass.

Those who think that they can deal with our present system in this
piecemeal way very much underrate the strength of the tremendous
organization under which we live, and which appoints to each of us his
place, and if we do not chance to fit it, grinds us down till we do.
Nothing but a tremendous force can deal with this force; it will not
suffer itself to be dismembered, nor to lose anything which really is its
essence without putting forth all its force in resistance; rather than
lose anything which it considers of importance, it will pull the roof of
the world down upon its head.  For, indeed, I grant these semi-Socialist
Democrats that there is one hope for their tampering piecemeal with our
Society; if by chance they can excite people into seriously, however
blindly, claiming one or other of these things in question, and could be
successful in Parliament in driving it through, they would certainly draw
on a great civil war, and such a war once let loose would not end but
either with the full triumph of Socialism or its extinction for the
present; it would be impossible to limit the aim of the struggle; nor can
we even guess at the course which it would take, except that it could not
be a matter of compromise.  But suppose the Democratic party peaceably
successful on this new basis of semi-State Socialism, what would it all
mean?  Attempts to balance the two classes whose interests are opposed to
each other, a mere ignoring of this antagonism which has led us through
so many centuries to where we are now, and then, after a period of
disappointment and disaster, the naked conflict once more; a revolution
made, and another immediately necessary on its morrow!

Yet, indeed, it will not come to that; for, whatever may be the aims of
the Democrats, they will not succeed in getting themselves into a
position from whence they could make the attempt to realize them.  I have
said there are Tories and yet no real Tory party; so also it seems to me
that there are Democrats but no Democratic party; at present they are
used by the leaders of the parliamentary factions, and also kept at a
distance by them from any real power.  If they by hook or crook managed
to get a number of members into Parliament, they would find out their
differences very speedily under the influence of party rule; in point of
fact, the Democrats are not a party; because they have no principles
other than the old Whig-Radical ones, extended in some cases so as to
take in a little semi-Socialism which the march of events has forced on
them—that is, they gravitate on one side to the Whigs and on the other to
the Socialists.  Whenever, if ever, they begin to be a power in the
elections and get members in the House, the temptation to be members of a
real live party which may have the government of the country in its
hands, the temptation to what is (facetiously, I suppose) called
practical politics, will be too much for many, even of those who
gravitate towards Socialism; a quasi-Democratic parliamentary party,
therefore, would probably be merely a recruiting ground, a nursery for
the left wing of the Whigs; though it would indeed leave behind some
small nucleus of opposition, the principles of which, however, would be
vague and floating, so that it would be but a powerless group after all.

The future of the constitutional Parliament, therefore, it seems to me,
is a perpetual Whig Rump, which will yield to pressure when mere
political reforms are attempted to be got out of it, but will be quite
immovable towards any real change in social and economical matters; that
is to say, so far as it may be conscious of the attack; for I grant that
it may be _betrayed_ into passing semi-State-Socialistic measures, which
will do this amount of good, that they will help to entangle commerce in
difficulties, and so add to discontent by creating suffering; suffering
of which the people will not understand the causes definitely, but which
their instinct will tell them truly is brought about by _government_, and
that, too, the only kind of government which they can have so long as the
constitutional Parliament lasts.

Now, if you think I have exaggerated the power of the Whigs, that is, of
solid, dead, unmoving resistance to progress, I must call your attention
to the events of the last few weeks.  Here has been a measure of
pacification proposed; at the least and worst an attempt to enter upon a
pacification of a weary and miserable quarrel many centuries old.  The
British people, in spite of their hereditary prejudice against the Irish,
were not averse to the measure; the Tories were, as usual, powerless
against it; yet so strong has been the _vis inertiæ_ of Whiggery that it
has won a notable victory over common-sense and sentiment combined, and
has drawn over to it a section of those hitherto known as Radicals, and
probably would have drawn all Radicals over but for the personal
ascendancy of Mr. Gladstone.  The Whigs, seeing, if but dimly, that this
Irish Independence meant an attack on property, have been successful in
snatching the promised peace out of the people’s hands, and in preparing
all kinds of entanglement and confusion for us for a long while in their
steady resistance to even the beginnings of revolution.

This, therefore, is what Parliament looks to me: a solid central party,
with mere nebulous opposition on the right hand and on the left.  The
people governed; that is to say, fair play amongst themselves for the
money-privileged classes to make the most of their privilege, and to
fight sturdily with each other in doing so; but the government concealed
as much as possible, and also as long as possible; that is to say, the
government resting on an assumed necessary eternity of privilege to
monopolize the means of the fructification of labour.

For so long as that assumption is accepted by the ignorance of the
people, the Great Whig Rump will remain inexpugnable, but as soon as the
people’s eyes are opened, even partially—and they begin to understand the
meaning of the words, the Emancipation of Labour—we shall begin to have
an assured hope of throwing off the basest and most sordid tyranny which
the world has yet seen, the tyranny of so-called Constitutionalism.

How, then, are the people’s eyes to be opened?  By the force evolved from
the final triumph and consequent corruption of Commercial Whiggery, which
force will include in it a recognition of its constructive activity by
intelligent people on the one hand, and on the other half-blind
instinctive struggles to use its destructive activity on the part of
those who suffer and have not been allowed to think; and, to boot, a
great deal that goes between those two extremes.

In this turmoil, all those who can be truly called Socialists will be
involved.  The modern development of the great class-struggle has forced
us to think, our thoughts force us to speak, and our hopes force us to
try to get a hearing from the people.  Nor can one tell how far our words
will carry, so to say.  The most moderate exposition of our principles
will bear with it the seeds of disruption; nor can we tell what form that
disruption will take.

One and all, then, we are responsible for the enunciation of Socialist
principles and of the consequences which may flow from their general
acceptance, whatever that may be.  This responsibility no Socialist can
shake off by declarations against physical force and in favour of
constitutional methods of agitation; we are attacking the Constitution
with the very beginnings, the mere lispings, of Socialism.

Whiggery, therefore, in its various forms, is the representative of
Constitutionalism—is the outward expression of monopoly and consequent
artificial restraints on labour and life; and there is only one
expression of the force which will destroy Whiggery, and that is
Socialism; and on the right hand and on the left Toryism and Radicalism
will melt into Whiggery—are doing so now—and Socialism has got to absorb
all that is not Whig in Radicalism.

Then comes the question, What is the policy of Socialism?  If Toryism and
Democracy are only nebulous masses of opposition to the solid centre of
Whiggery, what can we call Socialism?

Well, at present, in England at least, Socialism is not a party, but a
sect.  That is sometimes brought against it as a taunt; but I am not
dismayed by it; for I can conceive of a sect—nay, I have heard of
one—becoming a very formidable power, and becoming so by dint of its long
remaining a sect.  So I think it is quite possible that Socialism will
remain a sect till the very eve of the last stroke that completes the
revolution, after which it will melt into the new Society.  And is it not
sects, bodies of definite, uncompromising principles, that lead us into
revolutions?  Was it not so in the Cromwellian times?  Nay, have not the
Fenian sect, even in our own days, made Home Rule possible?  They may
give birth to parties, though not parties themselves.  And what should a
sect like we are have to do in the parliamentary struggle—we who have an
ideal to keep always before ourselves and others, and who cannot accept
compromise; who can see nothing that can give us rest for a minute save
the emancipation of labour, which will be brought about by the workers
gaining possession of all the means of the fructification of labour; and
who, even when that is gained, shall have pure Communism ahead to strive

What are we to do, then?  Stand by and look on?  Not exactly.  Yet we may
look on other people doing their work while we do ours.  They are already
beginning, as I have said, to stumble about with attempts at State
Socialism.  Let them make their experiments and blunders, and prepare the
way for us by so doing.  And our own business?  Well, we—sect or party,
or group of self-seekers, madmen, and poets, which you will—are at least
the only set of people who have been able to see that there is and has
been a great class-struggle going on.  Further, we can see that this
class-struggle cannot come to an end till the classes themselves do: one
class must absorb the other.  Which, then?  Surely the useful one, the
one that the world lives by, and on.  The business of the people at
present is to make it impossible for the useless, non-producing class to
live; while the business of Constitutionalism is, on the contrary, to
make it possible for them to live.  And our business is to help to make
the people _conscious_ of this great antagonism between the people and
Constitutionalism; and meantime to let Constitutionalism go on with its
government unhelped by us at least, until it at last becomes _conscious_
of its burden of the people’s hate, of the people’s knowledge that it is
disinherited, which we shall have done our best to further by any means
that we could.

As to Socialists in Parliament, there are two words about that.  If they
go there to take a part in carrying on Constitutionalism by palliating
the evils of the system, and so helping our rulers to bear their burden
of government, I for one, and so far as their action therein goes, cannot
call them Socialists at all.  But if they go there with the intention of
doing what they can towards the disruption of Parliament, that is a
matter of tactics for the time being; but even here I cannot help seeing
the danger of their being seduced from their true errand, and I fear that
they might become, on the terms above mentioned, simply supporters of the
very thing they set out to undo.

I say that our work lies quite outside Parliament, and it is to help to
educate the people by every and any means that may be effective; and the
knowledge we have to help them to is threefold—to know their own, to know
how to take their own, and to know how to use their own.


IT is true that the Norman Conquest found a certain kind of feudality in
existence in England—a feudality which was developed from the customs of
the Teutonic tribes with no admixture of Roman law; and also that even
before the Conquest this country was slowly beginning to be mixed up with
the affairs of the Continent of Europe, and that not only with the
kindred nations of Scandinavia, but with the Romanized countries also.
But the Conquest of Duke William did introduce the complete Feudal system
into the country; and it also connected it by strong bonds to the
Romanized countries, and yet by so doing laid the first foundations of
national feeling in England.  The English felt their kinship with the
Norsemen or the Danes, and did not suffer from their conquests when they
had become complete, and when, consequently, mere immediate violence had
disappeared from them; their feeling was tribal rather than national; but
they could have no sense of tribal unity with the varied populations of
the provinces which mere dynastical events had strung together into the
dominion, the manor, one may say, of the foreign princes of Normandy and
Anjou; and, as the kings who ruled them gradually got pushed out of their
French possessions, England began to struggle against the domination of
men felt to be foreigners, and so gradually became conscious of her
separate nationality, though still only in a fashion, as the manor of an
_English_ lord.

It is beyond the scope of this piece to give anything like a connected
story, even of the slightest, of the course of events between the
conquest of Duke William and the fully developed mediæval period of the
fourteenth century, which is the England that I have before my eyes as
Mediæval or Feudal.  That period of the fourteenth century united the
developments of the elements which had been stirring in Europe since the
final fall of the Roman Empire, and England shared in the general feeling
and spirit of the age, although, from its position, the course of its
history, and to a certain extent the lives of its people, were different.
It is to this period, therefore, that I wish in the long run to call your
attention, and I will only say so much about the earlier period as may be
necessary to explain how the people of England got into the position in
which they were found by the Statute of Labourers enacted by Edward III.,
and the Peasants’ Rebellion in the time of his grandson and successor,
Richard II.

Undoubtedly, then, the Norman Conquest made a complete break in the
continuity of the history of England.  When the Londoners after the
Battle of Hastings accepted Duke William for their king, no doubt they
thought of him as occupying much the same position as that of the newly
slain Harold; or at any rate they looked on him as being such a king of
England as Knut the Dane, who had also conquered the country; and
probably William himself thought no otherwise; but the event was quite
different; for on the one hand, not only was he a man of strong
character, able, masterful, and a great soldier in the modern sense of
the word, but he had at his back his wealthy dukedom of Normandy, which
he had himself reduced to obedience and organized; and, on the other
hand, England lay before him, unorganized, yet stubbornly rebellious to
him; its very disorganization and want of a centre making it more
difficult to deal with by merely overrunning it with an army levied for
that purpose, and backed by a body of house-carles or guards, which would
have been the method of a Scandinavian or native king in dealing with his
rebellious subjects.  Duke William’s necessities and instincts combined
led him into a very different course of action, which determined the
future destiny of the country.  What he did was to quarter upon England
an army of feudal vassals drawn from his obedient dukedom, and to hand
over to them the lordship of the land of England in return for their
military service to him, the suzerain of them all.  Thenceforward, it was
under the rule of these foreign landlords that the people of England had
to develop.

The development of the country as a Teutonic people was checked and
turned aside by this event.  Duke William brought, in fact, his Normandy
into England, which was thereby changed from a Teutonic people (Old-Norse
theod), with the tribal customary law still in use among them, into a
province of Romanized Feudal Europe, a piece of France, in short; and
though in time she did grow into another England again, she missed for
ever in her laws, and still more in her language and her literature, the
chance of developing into a great homogeneous Teutonic people infused
usefully with a mixture of Celtic blood.

However, this step which Duke William was forced to take further
influenced the future of the country by creating the great order of the
Baronage, and the history of the early period of England is pretty much
that of the struggle of the king with the Baronage and the Church.  For
William fixed the type of the successful English mediæval king, of whom
Henry II. and Edward I. were the most notable examples afterwards.  It
was, in fact, with him that the struggle towards monarchical bureaucracy
began, which was checked by the barons, who extorted Magna Charta from
King John, and afterwards by the revolt headed by Simon de Montfort in
Henry III.’s reign; was carried on vigorously by Edward I., and finally
successfully finished by Henry VII. after the long faction-fight of the
Wars of the Roses had weakened the feudal lords so much that they could
no longer assert themselves against the monarchy.

As to the other political struggle of the Middle Ages, the contest
between the Crown and the Church, two things are to be noted; first, that
at least in the earlier period the Church was on the popular side.
Thomas Beckett was canonized, it is true, formally and by regular decree;
but his memory was held so dear by the people that he would probably have
been canonized informally by them if the holy seat at Rome had refused to
do so.  The second thing to be noted about the dispute is this, that it
was no contest of principle.  According to the mediæval theory of life
and religion, the Church and the State were one in essence, and but
separate manifestations of the Kingdom of God upon earth, which was part
of the Kingdom of God in heaven.  The king was an officer of that realm
and a liegeman of God.  The doctor of laws and the doctor of physic
partook in a degree of the priestly character.  On the other hand, the
Church was not withdrawn from the every-day life of men; the division
into a worldly and spiritual life, neither of which had much to do with
the other, was a creation of the protestantism of the Reformation, and
had no place in the practice at least of the mediæval Church, which we
cannot too carefully remember is little more represented by modern
Catholicism than by modern Protestantism.  The contest, therefore,
between the Crown and the Church was a mere bickering between two bodies,
without any essential antagonism between them, as to how far the
administration of either reached; neither dreamed of subordinating one to
the other, far less of extinguishing one by the other.

The history of the Crusades, by-the-way, illustrates very emphatically
this position of the Church in the Middle Ages.  The foundation of that
strange feudal kingdom of Jerusalem, whose very coat of arms was a
solecism in heraldry, whose king had precedence, in virtue of his place
as lord of the centre of Christianity, over all other kings and princes;
the orders of men-at-arms vowed to poverty and chastity, like the
Templars and Knights of St. John; and above all the unquestioning sense
of duty that urged men of all classes and kinds into the holy war, show
how strongly the idea of God’s Kingdom on the earth had taken hold of all
men’s minds in the early Middle Ages.  As to the result of the Crusades,
they certainly had their influence on the solidification of Europe and
the great feudal system, at the head of which, in theory at least, were
the Pope and the Kaiser.  For the rest, the intercourse with the East
gave Europe an opportunity of sharing in the mechanical civilization of
the peoples originally dominated by the Arabs, and infused by the art of
Byzantium and Persia, not without some tincture of the cultivation of the
latter classical period.

The stir and movement also of the Crusades, and the necessities in which
they involved the princes and their barons, furthered the upward movement
of the classes that lay below the feudal vassals, great and little; the
principal opportunity for which movement, however, in England, was given
by the continuous struggle between the Crown and the Church and Baronage.

The early Norman kings, even immediately after the death of the
Conqueror, found themselves involved in this struggle, and were forced to
avail themselves of the help of what had now become the inferior
tribe—the native English, to wit.  Henry I., an able and ambitious man,
understood this so clearly that he made a distinct bid for the favour of
the inferior tribe by marrying an English princess; and it was by means
of the help of his English subjects that he conquered his Norman
subjects, and the field of Tenchebray, which put the coping-stone on his
success, was felt by the English people as an English victory over the
oppressing tribe with which Duke William had overwhelmed the English
people.  It was during this king’s reign and under these influences that
the trading and industrial classes began to rise somewhat.  The merchant
gilds were now in their period of greatest power, and had but just begun,
in England at least, to develop into the corporations of the towns; but
the towns themselves were beginning to gain their freedom and to become
an important element in the society of the time, as little by little they
asserted themselves against the arbitrary rule of the feudal lords, lay
or ecclesiastical: for as to the latter, it must be remembered that the
Church included in herself the orders or classes into which lay society
was divided, and while by its lower clergy of the parishes and by the
friars it touched the people, its upper clergy were simply feudal lords;
and as the religious fervour of the higher clergy, which was marked
enough in the earlier period of the Middle Ages (in Anselm, for example),
faded out, they became more and more mere landlords, although from the
conditions of their landlordism, living as they did on their land and
amidst of their tenants, they were less oppressive than the lay

The order and progress of Henry I.’s reign, which marks the transition
from the mere military camp of the Conqueror to the mediæval England I
have to dwell upon, was followed by the period of mere confusion and
misery which accompanied the accession of the princes of Anjou to the
throne of England.  In this period the barons widely became mere violent
and illegal robbers; and the castles with which the land was dotted, and
which were begun under the auspices of the Conqueror as military posts,
became mere dens of strong-thieves.

No doubt this made the business of the next able king, Henry II., the
easier.  He was a staunch man of business, and turned himself with his
whole soul towards the establishment of order and the consolidation of
the monarchy, which accordingly took a great stride under him towards its
ultimate goal of bureaucracy.  He would probably have carried the
business still farther, since in his contest with the Church, in spite of
the canonization of Beckett and the king’s formal penance at his tomb, he
had in fact gained a victory for the Crown which it never really lost
again; but in his days England was only a part of the vast dominion of
his House, which included more than half of France, and his struggle with
his feudatories and the French king, which sowed the seed of the loss of
that dominion to the English Crown, took up much of his life, and finally
beat him.

His two immediate successors, Richard I. and John, were good specimens of
the chiefs of their line, almost all of whom were very able men, having
even a touch of genius in them, but therewithal were such wanton
blackguards and scoundrels that one is almost forced to apply the
theological word “wickedness” to them.  Such characters belong specially
to their times, fertile as they were both of great qualities and of
scoundrelism, and in which our own special vice of hypocrisy was entirely
lacking.  John, the second of these two pests, put the coping-stone on
the villany of his family, and lost his French dominion in the lump.

Under such rascals as these came the turn of the Baronage; and they, led
by Stephen Langton, the archbishop who had been thrust on the unwilling
king by the Pope, united together and forced from him his assent to Magna
Charta, the great, thoroughly well-considered deed, which is
conventionally called the foundation of English Liberty, but which can
only claim to be so on the ground that it was the confirmation and seal
of the complete feudal system in England, and put the relations between
the vassals, the great feudatories, and the king on a stable basis; since
it created, or at least confirmed, order among these privileged classes,
among whom, indeed, it recognized the towns to a certain extent as part
of the great feudal hierarchy: so that even by this time they had begun
to acquire status in that hierarchy.

So John passed away, and became not long after an almost mythical
personage, the type of the bad king.  There are still ballads, and prose
stories deduced from these ballads, in existence, which tell the tale of
this strange monster as the English people imagined it.

As they belong to the literature of the fourteenth century, the period I
have undertaken to tell you about specially, I will give you one of the
latter of these concerning the death of King John, for whom the people
imagined a more dramatic cause of death than mere indigestion, of which
in all probability he really died; and you may take it for a specimen of
popular literature of the fourteenth century.

I can here make bold to quote from memory, without departing very widely
from the old text, since the quaint wording of the original, and the
spirit of bold and blunt heroism which it breathes, have fixed it in my
mind for ever.

The king, you must remember, had halted at Swinestead Abbey, in
Lincolnshire, in his retreat from the hostile barons and their French
allies, and had lost all his baggage by the surprise of the advancing
tide in the Wash; so that he might well be in a somewhat sour mood.

Says the tale: So the king went to meat in the hall, and before him was a
loaf; and he looked grimly on it and said, ‘For how much is such a loaf
sold in this realm?’

‘Sir, for one penny,’ said they.

Then the king smote the board with his fist and said, ‘By God, if I live
for one year such a loaf shall be sold for twelve pence!’

That heard one of the monks who stood thereby, and he thought and
considered that his hour and time to die was come, and that it would be a
good deed to slay so cruel a king and so evil a lord.

So he went into the garden and plucked plums and took out of them the
steles [stalks], and did venom in them each one; and he came before the
king and sat on his knee, and said:

‘Sir, by St. Austin, this is fruit of our garden.’

Then the king looked evilly on him and said, ‘Assay them, monk!’

So the monk took and ate thereof, nor changed countenance any whit: and
the king ate thereafter.

But presently afterwards the monk swelled and turned blue, and fell down
and died before the king: then waxed the king sick at heart, and he also
swelled and died, and so he ended his days.

For a while after the death of John and the accession of Henry III. the
Baronage, strengthened by the great Charter and with a weak and wayward
king on the throne, made their step forward in power and popularity, and
the first serious check to the tendency to monarchical bureaucracy, a
kind of elementary aristocratic constitution, was imposed upon the
weakness of Henry III.  Under this movement of the barons, who in their
turn had to seek for the support of the people, the towns made a fresh
step in advance, and Simon de Montfort, the leader of what for want of a
better word must be called the popular party, was forced by his
circumstances to summon to his Parliament citizens from the boroughs.
Earl Simon was one of those men that come to the front in violent times,
and he added real nobility of character to strength of will and
persistence.  He became the hero of the people, who went near to
canonizing him after his death.  But the monarchy was too strong for him
and his really advanced projects, which by no means squared with the
hopes of the Baronage in general: and when Prince Edward, afterwards
Edward I., grown to his full mental stature, came to the help of the
Crown with his unscrupulous business ability, the struggle was soon over;
and with Evesham field the monarchy began to take a new stride, and the
longest yet taken, towards bureaucracy.

Edward I. is remembered by us chiefly for the struggle he carried on with
the Scotch Baronage for the feudal suzerainty of that kingdom, and the
centuries of animosity between the two countries which that struggle drew
on.  But he has other claims to our attention besides this.

At first, and remembering the ruthlessness of many of his acts,
especially in the Scotch war, one is apt to look upon him as a somewhat
pedantic tyrant and a good soldier, with something like a dash of
hypocrisy beyond his time added.  But, like the Angevine kings I was
speaking of just now, he was a completely characteristic product of his
time.  He was not a hypocrite probably, after all, in spite of his tears
shed after he had irretrievably lost a game, or after he had won one by
stern cruelty.  There was a dash of real romance in him, which mingled
curiously with his lawyer-like qualities.  He was, perhaps, the man of
all men who represented most completely the finished feudal system, and
who took it most to heart.  His law, his romance, and his religion, his
self-command, and his terrible fury were all a part of this innate
feudalism, and exercised within its limits; and we must suppose that he
thoroughly felt his responsibility as the chief of his feudatories, while
at the same time he had no idea of his having any responsibilities
towards the lower part of his subjects.  Such a man was specially suited
to carrying on the tendency to bureaucratic centralization, which
culminated in the Tudor monarchy.  He had his struggle with the Baronage,
but hard as it was, he was sure not to carry it beyond the due limits of
feudalism; to that he was always loyal.  He had slain Earl Simon before
he was king, while he was but his father’s general; but Earl Simon’s work
did not die with him, and henceforward, while the Middle Ages and their
feudal hierarchy lasted, it was impossible for either king or barons to
do anything which would seriously injure each other’s position; the
struggle ended in his reign in a balance of power in England which, on
the one hand, prevented any great feudatory becoming a rival of the king,
as happened in several instances in France, and on the other hand
prevented the king lapsing into a mere despotic monarch.

I have said that bureaucracy took a great stride in Edward’s reign, but
it reached its limits under feudalism as far as the nobles were
concerned.  Peace and order was established between the different powers
of the governing classes; henceforward, the struggle is between them and
the governed; that struggle was now to become obvious; the lower tribe
was rising in importance; it was becoming richer for fleecing, but also
it was beginning to have some power; this led the king first, and
afterwards the barons, to attack it definitely; it was rich enough to pay
for the trouble of being robbed, and not yet strong enough to defend
itself with open success, although the slower and less showy success of
growth did not fail it.  The instrument of attack in the hands of the
barons was the ordinary feudal privilege, the logical carrying out of
serfdom; but this attack took place two reigns later.  We shall come to
that further on.  The attack on the lower tribe which was now growing
into importance was in this reign made by the king; and his instrument

I have told you that Simon de Montfort made some attempt to get the
burgesses to sit in his Parliament, but it was left to Edward I. to lay
the foundations firmly of parliamentary representation, which he used for
the purpose of augmenting the power of the Crown and crushing the rising
liberty of the towns, though of course his direct aim was simply

The Great Council of the Realm was purely feudal; it was composed of the
feudatories of the king, theoretically of all of them, practically of the
great ones only.  It was, in fact, the council of the conquering tribe
with their chief at its head; the matters of the due feudal tribute,
aids, reliefs, fines, scutage, and the like—in short, the king’s revenue
due from his men—were settled in this council at once and in the lump.
But the inferior tribe, though not represented there, existed, and, as
aforesaid, was growing rich, and the king had to get their money out of
their purses directly; which, as they were not represented at the
council, he had to do by means of his officers (the sheriffs) dealing
with them one after another, which was a troublesome job; for the men
were stiff-necked and quite disinclined to part with their money; and the
robbery having to be done on the spot, so to say, encountered all sorts
of opposition: and, in fact, it was the money needs both of baron,
bishop, and king which had been the chief instrument in furthering the
progress of the towns.  The towns would be pressed by their lords, king,
or baron, or bishop, as it might be, and they would see their advantage
and strike a bargain.  For you are not to imagine that because there was
a deal of violence going on in those times there was no respect for law;
on the contrary, there was a quite exaggerated respect for it if it came
within the four corners of the feudal feeling, and the result of this
feeling of respect was the constant struggle for _status_ on the part of
the townships and other associations throughout the Middle Ages.

Well, the burghers would say, “’Tis hard to pay this money, but we will
put ourselves out to pay it if you will do something for us in return;
let, for example, our men be tried in our own court, and the verdict be
of one of compurgation instead of wager of battle,” and so forth, and so

All this sort of detailed bargaining was, in fact, a safeguard for the
local liberties, so far as they went, of the towns and shires, and did
not suit the king’s views of law and order at all; and so began the
custom of the sheriff (the king’s officer, who had taken the place of the
earl of the Anglo-Saxon period) summoning the burgesses to the council,
which burgesses you must understand were not elected at the folkmotes of
the town, or hundred, but in a sort of hole-and-corner way by a few of
the bigger men of the place.  What the king practically said was this: “I
want your money, and I cannot be for ever wrangling with you stubborn
churles at home there, and listening to all your stories of how poor you
are, and what you want; no, I want you to be _represented_.  Send me up
from each one of your communes a man or two whom I can bully or cajole or
bribe to sign away your substance for you.”

Under these circumstances it is no wonder that the towns were not very
eager in the cause of _representation_.  It was no easy job to get them
to come up to London merely to consult as to the kind of sauce with which
they were to be eaten.  However, they did come in some numbers, and by
the year 1295 something like a shadow of our present Parliament was on
foot.  Nor need there be much more said about this institution; as time
went on its functions got gradually extended by the petition for the
redress of grievances accompanying the granting of money, but it was
generally to be reckoned on as subservient to the will of the king, who
down to the later Tudor period played some very queer tunes on this
constitutional instrument.

Edward I. gave place to his son, who again was of the type of king who
had hitherto given the opportunity to the barons for their turn of
advancement in the constitutional struggle; and in earlier times no doubt
they would have taken full advantage of the circumstances; as it was they
had little to gain.  The king did his best to throw off the restraint of
the feudal constitution, and to govern simply as an absolute monarch.
After a time of apparent success he failed, of course, and only succeeded
in confirming the legal rights of feudalism by bringing about his own
formal deposition at the hands of the Baronage, as a chief who, having
broken the compact with his feudatories, had necessarily forfeited his
right.  If we compare his case with that of Charles I. we shall find this
difference in it, besides the obvious one that Edward was held
responsible to his feudatories and Charles towards the upper middle
classes, the squirearchy, as represented by Parliament; that Charles was
condemned by a law created for the purpose, so to say, and evolved from
the principle of the representation of the propertied classes, while
Edward’s deposition was the real logical outcome of the confirmed feudal
system, and was practically legal and regular.

The successor of the deposed king, the third Edward, ushers in the
complete and central period of the Middle Ages in England.  The feudal
system is complete: the life and spirit of the country has developed into
a condition if not quite independent, yet quite forgetful, on the one
hand of the ideas and customs of the Celtic and Teutonic tribes, and on
the other of the authority of the Roman Empire.  The Middle Ages have
grown into manhood; that manhood has an art of its own, which, though
developed step by step from that of Old Rome and New Rome, and embracing
the strange mysticism and dreamy beauty of the East, has forgotten both
its father and its mother, and stands alone triumphant, the loveliest,
brightest, and gayest of all the creations of the human mind and hand.

It has a literature of its own too, somewhat akin to its art, yet
inferior to it, and lacking its unity, since there is a double stream in
it.  On the one hand is the court poet, the gentleman, Chaucer, with his
Italianizing metres, and his formal recognition of the classical stories;
on which, indeed, he builds a superstructure of the quaintest and most
unadulterated mediævalism, as gay and bright as the architecture which
his eyes beheld and his pen pictured for us, so clear, defined, and
elegant it is; a sunny world even amidst its violence and passing
troubles, like those of a happy child, the worst of them an amusement
rather than a grief to the onlookers; a world that scarcely needed hope
in its eager life of adventure and love, amidst the sunlit blossoming
meadows, and green woods, and white begilded manor-houses.  A kindly and
human muse is Chaucer’s, nevertheless, interested in and amused by all
life, but of her very nature devoid of strong aspirations for the future;
and that all the more, since, though the strong devotion and fierce piety
of the ruder Middle Ages had by this time waned, and the Church was more
often lightly mocked at than either feared or loved, still the _habit_ of
looking on this life as part of another yet remained: the world is fair
and full of adventure; kind men and true and noble are in it to make one
happy; fools also to laugh at, and rascals to be resisted, yet not wholly
condemned; and when this world is over we shall still go on living in
another which is a part of this.  Look at all the picture, note all and
live in all, and be as merry as you may, never forgetting that you are
alive and that it is good to live.

That is the spirit of Chaucer’s poetry; but alongside of it existed yet
the ballad poetry of the people, wholly untouched by courtly elegance and
classical pedantry; rude in art but never coarse, true to the backbone;
instinct with indignation against wrong, and thereby expressing the hope
that was in it; a protest of the poor against the rich, especially in
those songs of the Foresters, which have been called the mediæval epic of
revolt; no more gloomy than the gentleman’s poetry, yet cheerful from
courage, and not content.  Half a dozen stanzas of it are worth a
cartload of the whining introspective lyrics of to-day; and he who, when
he has mastered the slight differences of language from our own daily
speech, is not moved by it, does not understand what true poetry means
nor what its aim is.

There is a third element in the literature of this time which you may
call Lollard poetry, the great example of which is William Langland’s
“Piers Plowman.”  It is no bad corrective to Chaucer, and in _form_ at
least belongs wholly to the popular side; but it seems to me to show
symptoms of the spirit of the rising middle class, and casts before it
the shadow of the new master that was coming forward for the workman’s
oppression.  But I must leave what more I have to say on this subject of
the art and literature of the fourteenth century for another occasion.
In what I have just said, I only wanted to point out to you that the
Middle Ages had by this time come to the fullest growth; and that they
could express in a form which was all their own, the ideas and life of
the time.

That time was in a sense brilliant and progressive, and the life of the
worker in it was better than it ever had been, and might compare with
advantage with what it became in after periods and with what it is now;
and indeed, looking back upon it, there are some minds and some moods
that cannot help regretting it, and are not particularly scared by the
idea of its violence and its lack of accurate knowledge of scientific

However, one thing is clear to us now, the kind of thing which never is
clear to most people living in such periods—namely, that whatever it was,
it could not last, but must change into something else.

The complete feudalism of the fourteenth century fell, as systems always
fall, by its own corruption, and by development of the innate seeds of
change, some of which indeed had lain asleep during centuries, to wake up
into activity long after the events which had created them were

The feudal system was naturally one of open war; and the alliances,
marriages, and other dealings, family with family, made by the king and
potentates, were always leading them into war by giving them legal
claims, or at least claims that could be legally pleaded, to the domains
of other lords, who took advantage of their being on the spot, of their
strength in men or money, or their popularity with the Baronage, to give
immediate effect to _their_ claims.  Such a war was that by which Edward
I. drew on England the enmity of the Scotch; and such again was the great
war which Edward III. entered into with France.  You must not suppose
that there was anything in this war of a national, far less of a race,
character.  The last series of wars before this time I am now speaking
of, in which race feelings counted for much, was the Crusades.  This
French war, I say, was neither national, racial, or tribal; it was the
private business of a lord of the manor, claiming what he considered his
legal rights of another lord, who had, as he thought, usurped them; and
this claim his loyal feudatories were bound to take up for him; loyalty
to a feudal superior, not patriotism to a country, was the virtue which
Edward III.’s soldiers had to offer, if they had any call to be virtuous
in that respect.

This war once started was hard to drop, partly because of the success
that Edward had in it, falling as he did on France with the force of a
country so much more homogeneous than it; and no doubt it was a war very
disastrous to both countries, and so may be reckoned as amongst the
causes which broke up the feudal system.

But the real causes of that break-up lay much deeper than that.  The
system was not capable of expansion in production; it was, in fact, as
long as its integrity remained untouched, an army fed by slaves, who
could not be properly and closely exploited; its free men proper might do
something else in their leisure, and so produce art and literature, but
their true business as members of a conquering tribe, their concerted
business, was to fight.  There was, indeed, a fringe of people between
the serf and the free noble who produced the matters of handicraft which
were needed for the latter, but deliberately, and, as we should now
think, wastefully; and as these craftsmen and traders began to grow into
importance and to push themselves, as they could not help doing, into the
feudal hierarchy, as they acquired _status_, so the sickness of the
feudal system increased on it, and the shadow of the coming commercialism
fell upon it.

That any set of people who could claim to be other than the property of
free men should not have definite rights differentiated sharply from
those of other groups, was an idea that did not occur to the Middle Ages;
therefore, as soon as men came into existence that were not serfs and
were not nobles, they had to struggle for status by organizing themselves
into associations that should come to be acknowledged members of the
great feudal hierarchy; for indefinite and negative freedom was not
allowed to any person in those days; if you had not status you did not
exist except as an outlaw.

This is, briefly speaking, the motive power of necessity that lay behind
the struggle of the town corporations and craft-gilds to be free, a
struggle which, though it was to result in the breaking up of the
mediæval hierarchy, began by an appearance of strengthening it by adding
to its members, increasing its power of production, and so making it more
stable for the time being.

About this struggle, and the kind of life which accompanied it, I may
have to write another time, and so will not say more about it here.
Except this, that it was much furthered by the change that gradually took
place between the landlords and the class on whom all society rested, the
serfs.  These at first were men who had no more rights than chattel
slaves had, except that mostly, as part of the stock of the manor, they
could not be sold off it; they had to do all the work of the manor, and
to earn their own livelihood off it as they best could.  But as the power
of production increased, owing to better methods of working, and as the
country got to be more settled, their task-work became easier of
performance and their own land more productive to them; and that tendency
to the definition and differentiation of rights, moreover, was at work
for their benefit, and the custom of the manor defined what their
services were, and they began to acquire rights.  From that time they
ceased to be pure serfs, and began to tend towards becoming tenants, at
first paying purely and simply _service_ for their holdings, but
gradually commuting that service for fines and money payment—for rent, in

Towards the close of the fourteenth century, after the country had been
depopulated by the Black Death, and impoverished by the long war, the
feudal lords of these copyholders and tenants began to regret the
slackness with which their predecessors had exploited their _property_,
the serfs, and to consider that under the new commercial light which had
begun to dawn upon them _they_ could do it much better if they only had
their property a little more in hand; but it was too late, for their
property had acquired rights, and therewithal had got strange visions
into their heads of a time much better than that in which they lived,
when even those rights should be supplanted by a condition of things in
which the assertion of rights for any one set of men should no longer be
needed, since all men should be free to enjoy the fruits of their own

Of that came the great episode of the Peasants’ War, led by men like Wat
Tyler, Jack Straw, and John Ball, who indeed, with those they led,
suffered for daring to be before their time, for the revolt was put down
with cruelty worthy of an Irish landlord or a sweating capitalist of the
present day; but, nevertheless, serfdom came to an end in England, if not
because of the revolt, yet because of the events that made it, and
thereby a death-wound was inflicted on the feudal system.

From that time onward the country, passing through the various troubles
of a new French war of Henry V.’s time, and the War of the Roses, did not
heed these faction fights much.

The workmen grew in prosperity, but also they began to rise into a new
class, and a class beneath them of mere labourers who were not serfs
began to form, and to lay the foundations of capitalistic production.

England got carried into the rising current of commercialism, and the
rich men and landlords to turn their attention to the production of
profit instead of the production of livelihood; the gild-less journeyman
and the landless labourer slowly came into existence; the landlord got
rid of his tenants all he could, turned tillage into pasture, and sweated
the pastures to death in his eagerness for wool, which for him meant
money and the breeding of money; till at last the place of the serf,
which had stood empty, as it were, during a certain transition period,
during which the non-capitalistic production was expanding up to its
utmost limit, was filled by the proletarian working for the service of a
master in a new fashion, a fashion which exploited and (woe worth the
while!) exploits him very much more completely than the customs of the
manor of the feudal period.

The life of the worker and the production of goods in this transition
period, when Feudal society was sickening for its end, is a difficult and
wide subject that requires separate treatment; at present I will leave
the mediæval workman at the full development of that period which found
him a serf bound to the manor, and which left him generally a yeoman or
an artisan sharing the collective _status_ of his gild.

The workman of to-day, if he could realize the position of his
forerunner, has some reason to envy him: the feudal serf worked hard, and
lived poorly, and produced a rough livelihood for his master; whereas the
modern workman, working harder still, and living little if any better
than the serf, produces for his master a state of luxury of which the old
lord of the manor never dreamed.  The workman’s powers of production are
multiplied a thousandfold; his own livelihood remains pretty much where
it was.  The balance goes to his master and the crowd of useless,
draggled-tailed knaves and fools who pander to his idiotic sham desires,
and who, under the pretentious title of the intellectual part of the
middle classes, have in their turn taken the place of the mediæval

Truly, if the Positivist motto, “Live for others,” be taken in stark
literality, the modern workman should be a good and wise man, since he
has no chance of living for himself!

And yet, I wish he were wiser still; wise enough to make an end of the
preaching of “Live on others,” which is the motto set forth by
commercialism to her favoured children.

Yet in one thing the modern proletarian has an advantage over the
mediæval serf, and that advantage is a world in itself.  Many a century
lay between the serf and successful revolt, and though he tried it many a
time and never lost heart, yet the coming change which his martyrdom
helped on was not to be for him yet, but for the new masters of his
successors.  With us it is different.  A few years of wearisome struggle
against apathy and ignorance; a year or two of growing hope—and then who
knows?  Perhaps a few months, or perhaps a few days of the open struggle
against brute force, with the mask off its face, and the sword in its
hand, and then we are over the bar.

Who knows, I say?  Yet this we know, that ahead of us, with nothing
betwixt us except such incidents as are necessary to its development,
lies the inevitable social revolution, which will bring about the end of
mastery and the triumph of fellowship.


EVERY age has had its hopes, hopes that look to something beyond the life
of the age itself, hopes that try to pierce into the future; and, strange
to say, I believe that those hopes have been stronger not in the heyday
of the epoch which has given them birth, but rather in its decadence and
times of corruption: in sober truth it may well be that these hopes are
but a reflection in those that live happily and comfortably of the vain
longings of those others who suffer with little power of expressing their
sufferings in an audible voice: when all goes well the happy world
forgets these people and their desires, sure as it is that their woes are
not dangerous to them the wealthy: whereas when the woes and grief of the
poor begin to rise to a point beyond the endurance of men, fear conscious
or unconscious falls upon the rich, and they begin to look about them to
see what there may be among the elements of their society which may be
used as palliatives for the misery which, long existing and ever growing
greater among the slaves of that society, is now at last forcing itself
on the attention of the masters.  Times of change, disruption, and
revolution are naturally times of hope also, and not seldom the hopes of
something better to come are the first tokens that tell people that
revolution is at hand, though commonly such tokens are no more believed
than Cassandra’s prophecies, or are even taken in a contrary sense by
those who have anything to lose; since they look upon them as signs of
the prosperity of the times, and the long endurance of that state of
things which is so kind to them.  Let us then see what the hopes of
civilization are like to-day: for indeed I purpose speaking of our own
times chiefly, and will leave for the present all mention of that older
civilization which was destroyed by the healthy barbarism out of which
our present society has grown.

Yet a few words may be necessary concerning the birth of our present
epoch and the hopes it gave rise to, and what has become of them: that
will not take us very far back in history; as to my mind our modern
civilization begins with the stirring period about the time of the
Reformation in England, the time which in the then more important
countries of the Continent is known as the period of the Renaissance, the
so-called new-birth of art and learning.

And first remember that this period includes the death-throes of
feudalism, with all the good and evil which that system bore with it.
For centuries past its end was getting ready by the gradual weakening of
the bonds of the great hierarchy which held men together: the
characteristics of those bonds were, theoretically at least, personal
rights and personal duties between superior and inferior all down the
scale; each man was born, so to say, subject to these conditions, and the
mere accidents of his life could not free him from them: commerce, in our
sense of the word, there was none; capitalistic manufacture, capitalistic
exchange was unknown: to buy goods cheap that you might sell them dear
was a legal offence (forestalling): to buy goods in the market in the
morning and to sell them in the afternoon in the same place was not
thought a useful occupation and was forbidden under the name of
regrating; usury, instead of leading as now directly to the highest
offices of the State, was thought wrong, and the profit of it mostly fell
to the chosen people of God: the robbery of the workers, thought
necessary then as now to the very existence of the State, was carried out
quite crudely without any concealment or excuse by arbitrary taxation or
open violence: on the other hand, life was easy, and common necessaries
plenteous; the holidays of the Church were holidays in the modern sense
of the word, downright play-days, and there were ninety-six obligatory
ones: nor were the people tame and sheep-like, but as rough-handed and
bold a set of good fellows as ever rubbed through life under the sun.

I remember three passages, from contemporary history or gossip, about the
life of those times which luck has left us, and which illustrate
curiously the change that has taken place in the habits of Englishmen.  A
lady writing from Norfolk 400 years ago to her husband in London, amidst
various commissions for tapestries, groceries, and gowns, bids him also
not to forget to bring back with him a good supply of cross-bows and
bolts, since the windows of their hall were too low to be handy for
long-bow shooting.  A German traveller, writing quite at the end of the
mediæval period, speaks of the English as the laziest and proudest people
and the best cooks in Europe.  A Spanish ambassador about the same period
says, “These English live in houses built of sticks and mud, {87} but
therein they fare as plenteously as lords.”

Indeed, I confess that it is with a strange emotion that I recall these
times and try to realize the life of our forefathers, men who were named
like ourselves, spoke nearly the same tongue, lived on the same spots of
earth, and therewithal were as different from us in manners, habits, ways
of life and thought, as though they lived in another planet.  The very
face of the country has changed; not merely I mean in London and the
great manufacturing centres, but through the country generally; there is
no piece of English ground, except such places as Salisbury Plain, but
bears witness to the amazing change which 400 years has brought upon us.

Not seldom I please myself with trying to realize the face of mediæval
England; the many chases and great woods, the stretches of common tillage
and common pasture quite unenclosed; the rough husbandry of the tilled
parts, the unimproved breeds of cattle, sheep, and swine; especially the
latter, so lank and long and lathy, looking so strange to us; the strings
of packhorses along the bridle-roads, the scantiness of the wheel-roads,
scarce any except those left by the Romans, and those made from monastery
to monastery: the scarcity of bridges, and people using ferries instead,
or fords where they could; the little towns, well bechurched, often
walled; the villages just where they are now (except for those that have
nothing but the church left to tell of them), but better and more
populous; their churches, some big and handsome, some small and curious,
but all crowded with altars and furniture, and gay with pictures and
ornament; the many religious houses, with their glorious architecture;
the beautiful manor-houses, some of them castles once, and survivals from
an earlier period; some new and elegant; some out of all proportion small
for the importance of their lords.  How strange it would be to us if we
could be landed in fourteenth century England; unless we saw the crest of
some familiar hill, like that which yet bears upon it a symbol of an
English tribe, and from which, looking down on the plain where Alfred was
born, I once had many such ponderings, we should not know into what
country of the world we were come: the name is left, scarce a thing else.

And when I think of this it quickens my hope of what may be: even so it
will be with us in time to come; all will have changed, and another
people will be dwelling here in England, who, although they may be of our
blood and bear our name, will wonder how we lived in the nineteenth

Well, under all that rigidly ordered caste society of the fourteenth
century, with its rough plenty, its sauntering life, its cool acceptance
of rudeness and violence, there was going on a keen struggle of classes
which carried with it the hope of progress of those days: the serfs
gradually getting freed, and becoming some of them the town population,
the first journeymen, or “free-labourers,” so called, some of them the
copyholders of agricultural land: the corporations of the towns gathered
power, the craft-gilds grew into perfection and corruption, the power of
the Crown increased, attended with nascent bureaucracy; in short, the
middle class was forming underneath the outward show of feudalism still
intact: and all was getting ready for the beginning of the great
commercial epoch in whose _latter_ days I would fain hope we are living.
That epoch began with the portentous change of agriculture which meant
cultivating for profit instead of for livelihood, and which carried with
it the expropriation of the _people_ from the land, the extinction of the
yeoman, and the rise of the capitalist farmer; and the growth of the town
population, which, swelled by the drift of the landless vagabonds and
masterless men, grew into a definite proletariat or class of
free-workmen; and their existence made that of the embryo
capitalist-manufacturer also possible; and the reign of commercial
contract and cash payment began to take the place of the old feudal
hierarchy, with its many-linked chain of personal responsibilities.  The
latter half of the seventeenth century, the reign of Charles II., saw the
last blow struck at this feudal system, when the landowners’ military
service was abolished, and they became simple owners of property that had
no duties attached to it save the payment of a land-tax.

The hopes of the early part of the commercial period may be read in
almost every book of the time, expressed in various degrees of dull or
amusing pedantry, and show a naïf arrogance and contempt of the times
just past through which nothing but the utmost simplicity of ignorance
could have attained to.  But the times were stirring, and gave birth to
the most powerful individualities in many branches of literature, and
More and Campanella, at least from the midst of the exuberant triumph of
young commercialism, gave to the world prophetic hopes of times yet to
come when that commercialism itself should have given place to the
society which we hope will be the next transform of civilization into
something else; into a new social life.

This period of early and exuberant hopes passed into the next stage of
sober realization of many of them, for commerce grew and grew, and
moulded all society to its needs: the workman of the sixteenth century
worked still as an individual with little co-operation, and scarce any
division of labour: by the end of the seventeenth he had become only a
part of a group which by that time was in the handicrafts the real unit
of production; division of labour even at that period had quite destroyed
his individuality, and the worker was but part of a machine: all through
the eighteenth century this system went on progressing towards
perfection, till to most men of that period, to most of those who were in
any way capable of expressing their thoughts, civilization had already
reached a high stage of perfection, and was certain to go on from better
to better.

These hopes were not on the surface of a very revolutionary kind, but
nevertheless the class struggle still went on, and quite openly too; for
the remains of feudality, aided by the mere mask and grimace of the
religion, which was once a real part of the feudal system, hampered the
progress of commerce sorely, and seemed a thousandfold more powerful than
it really was; because in spite of the class struggle there was really a
covert alliance between the powerful middle classes who were the children
of commerce and their old masters the aristocracy; an unconscious
understanding between them rather, in the midst of their contest, that
certain matters were to be respected even by the advanced party: the
contest and civil war between the king and the commons in England in the
seventeenth century illustrates this well: the caution with which
privilege was attacked in the beginning of the struggle, the
unwillingness of all the leaders save a few enthusiasts to carry matters
to their logical consequences, even when the march of events had
developed the antagonism between aristocratic privilege and middle-class
freedom of contract (so called); finally, the crystallization of the new
order conquered by the sword of Naseby into a mongrel condition of things
between privilege and bourgeois freedom, the defeat and grief of the
purist Republicans, and the horror at and swift extinction of the
Levellers, the pioneers of Socialism in that day, all point to the fact
that the “party of progress,” as we should call it now, was determined
after all that privilege should not be abolished further than its own

The seventeenth century ended in the great Whig revolution in England,
and, as I said, commerce throve and grew enormously, and the power of the
middle classes increased proportionately and all things seemed going
smoothly with them, till at last in France the culminating corruption of
a society, still nominally existing for the benefit of the privileged
aristocracy, forced their hand: the old order of things, backed as it was
by the power of the executive, by that semblance of overwhelming physical
force which is the real and only cement of a society founded on the
slavery of the many—the aristocratic power, seemed strong and almost
inexpugnable: and since any stick will do to beat a dog with, the middle
classes in France were forced to take up the first stick that lay ready
to hand if they were not to give way to the aristocrats, which indeed the
whole evolution of history forbade them to do.  Therefore, as in England
in the seventeenth century, the middle classes allied themselves to
religious and republican, and even communistic enthusiasts, with the
intention, firm though unexpressed, to keep them down when they had
mounted to power by their means, so in France they had to ally themselves
with the proletariat; which, shamefully oppressed and degraded as it had
been, now for the first time in history began to feel its power, the
power of numbers: by means of this help they triumphed over aristocratic
privilege, but, on the other hand, although the proletariat was speedily
reduced again to a position not much better than that it had held before
the revolution, the part it played therein gave a new and terrible
character to that revolution, and from that time forward the class
struggle entered on to a new phase; the middle classes had gained a
complete victory, which in France carried with it all the outward signs
of victory, though in England they chose to consider a certain part of
themselves an aristocracy, who had indeed little signs of aristocracy
about them either for good or for evil, being in very few cases of long
descent, and being in their manners and ideas unmistakably _bourgeois_.

So was accomplished the second act of the great class struggle with whose
first act began the age of commerce; as to the hopes of this period of
the revolution we all know how extravagant they were; what a complete
regeneration of the world was expected to result from the abolition of
the grossest form of privilege; and I must say that, before we mock at
the extravagance of those hopes, we should try to put ourselves in the
place of those that held them, and try to conceive how the privilege of
the old noblesse must have galled the respectable well-to-do people of
that time.  Well, the reasonable part of those hopes were realized by the
revolution; in other words, it accomplished what it really aimed at, the
freeing of commerce from the fetters of sham feudality; or, in other
words, the destruction of aristocratic privilege.  The more extravagant
part of the hopes expressed by the eighteenth century revolution were
vague enough, and tended in the direction of supposing that the working
classes would be benefited by what was to the interest of the middle
class in some way quite unexplained—by a kind of magic, one may say—which
welfare of the workers, as it was never directly aimed at, but only hoped
for by the way, so also did not come about by any such magical means, and
the triumphant middle classes began gradually to find themselves looked
upon no longer as rebellious servants, but as oppressive masters.

The middle class had freed commerce from her fetters of privilege, and
had freed thought from her fetters of theology, at least partially; but
it had not freed, nor attempted to free, labour from its fetters.  The
leaders of the French Revolution, even amidst the fears, suspicions and
slaughter of the Terror, upheld the rights of “property” so called,
though a new pioneer or prophet appeared in France, analogous in some
respects to the Levellers of Cromwell’s time, but, as might be expected,
far more advanced and reasonable than they were.  Gracchus Babeuf and his
fellows were treated as criminals, and died or suffered the torture of
prison for attempting to put into practice those words which the Republic
still carried on its banners, and Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality were
interpreted in a middle-class, or if you please a Jesuitical, sense, as
the rewards of success for those who could struggle into an exclusive
class; and at last property had to be defended by a military adventurer,
and the Revolution seemed to have ended with Napoleonism.

Nevertheless, the Revolution was not dead, nor was it possible to say
thus far and no further to the rising tide.  Commerce, which had created
the propertyless proletariat throughout civilization had still another
part to play, which is not yet played out; she had and has to teach the
workers to know what they are; to educate them, to consolidate them, and
not only to give them aspirations for their advancement as a class, but
to make means for them to realize those aspirations.  All this she did,
nor loitered in her work either; from the beginning of the nineteenth
century the history of civilization is really the history of the last of
the class-struggles which was inaugurated by the French Revolution; and
England, who all through the times of the Revolution and the Cæsarism
which followed it appeared to be the steady foe of Revolution, was really
as steadily furthering it; her natural conditions, her store of coal and
minerals, her temperate climate, extensive sea-board and many harbours,
and lastly her position as the outpost of Europe looking into America
across the ocean, doomed her to be for a time at least the mistress of
the commerce of the civilized world, and its agent with barbarous and
semi-barbarous countries.  The necessities of this destiny drove her into
the implacable war with France, a war which, nominally waged on behalf of
monarchical principles, was really, though doubtless unconsciously,
carried on for the possession of the foreign and colonial markets.  She
came out victorious from that war, and fully prepared to take advantage
of the industrial revolution which had been going on the while, and which
I now ask you to note.

I have said that the eighteenth century perfected the system of labour
which took the place of the mediæval system, under which a workman
individually carried his piece of work all through its various stages
from the first to the last.

This new system, the first change in industrial production since the
Middle Ages, is known as the system of division of labour, wherein, as I
said, the unit of labour is a group, not a man; the individual workman in
this system is kept life-long at the performance of some task quite petty
in itself, and which he soon masters, and having mastered it has nothing
more to do but to go on increasing his speed of hand under the spur of
competition with his fellows, until he has become the perfect machine
which it is his ultimate duty to become, since without attaining to that
end he must die or become a pauper.  You can well imagine how this
glorious invention of division of labour, this complete destruction of
individuality in the workman, and his apparent hopeless enslavement to
his profit-grinding master, stimulated the hopes of civilization;
probably more hymns have been sung in praise of division of labour, more
sermons preached about it, than have done homage to the precept, “do unto
others as ye would they should do unto you.”

To drop all irony, surely this was one of those stages of civilization at
which one might well say that, if it was to stop there, it was a pity
that it had ever got so far.  I have had to study books and methods of
work of the eighteenth century a good deal, French chiefly; and I must
say that the impression made on me by that study is that the eighteenth
century artisan must have been a terrible product of civilization, and
quite in a condition to give rise to _hopes_—of the torch, the pike, and
the guillotine.

However, civilization was not going to stop there; having turned the man
into a machine, the next stage for commerce to aim at was to contrive
machines which would widely dispense with human labour; nor was this aim
altogether disappointed.

Now, at first sight it would seem that having got the workman into such a
plight as he was, as the slave of division of labour, this new invention
of machines which should free him from a part of his labour at least,
could be nothing to him but an unmixed blessing.  Doubtless it will prove
to have been so in the end, when certain institutions have been swept
away which most people now look on as eternal; but a longish time has
passed during which the workman’s hopes of civilization have been
disappointed, for those who invented the machines, or rather who profited
by their invention, did not aim at the saving of labour in the sense of
reducing the labour which each man had to do, but, first taking it for
granted that every workman would have to work as long as he could stand
up to it, aimed, under those conditions of labour, at producing the
utmost possible amount of goods which they could sell at a profit.

Need I dwell on the fact that, under these circumstances, the invention
of the machines has benefited the workman but little even to this day?

Nay, at first they made his position worse than it had been: for, being
thrust on the world very suddenly, they distinctly brought about an
industrial revolution, changing everything suddenly and completely;
industrial productiveness was increased prodigiously, but so far from the
workers reaping the benefit of this, they were thrown out of work in
enormous numbers, while those who were still employed were reduced from
the position of skilled artisans to that of unskilled labourers: the aims
of their masters being, as I said, to make a profit, they did not trouble
themselves about this as a class, but took it for granted that it was
something that couldn’t be helped and didn’t hurt _them_; nor did they
think of offering to the workers that compensation for harassed interests
which they have since made a point of claiming so loudly for themselves.

This was the state of things which followed on the conclusion of European
peace, and even that peace itself rather made matters worse than better,
by the sudden cessation of all war industries, and the throwing on to the
market many thousands of soldiers and sailors: in short, at no period of
English history was the condition of the workers worse than in the early
years of the nineteenth century.

There seem during this period to have been two currents of hope that had
reference to the working classes: the first affected the masters, the
second the men.

In England, and, in what I am saying of this period, I am chiefly
thinking of England, the hopes of the richer classes ran high; and no
wonder; for England had by this time become the mistress of the markets
of the world, and also, as the people of that period were never weary of
boasting, the workshop of the world: the increase in the riches of the
country was enormous, even at the early period I am thinking of now—prior
to ’48, I mean—though it increased much more speedily in times that we
have all seen: but part of the jubilant hopes of this newly rich man
concerned his servants, the instruments of his fortune: it was hoped that
the population in general would grow wiser, better educated, thriftier,
more industrious, more comfortable; for which hope there was surely some
foundation, since man’s mastery over the forces of Nature was growing
yearly towards completion; but you see these benevolent gentlemen
supposed that these hopes would be realized perhaps by some unexplained
magic as aforesaid, or perhaps by the working-classes, _at their own
expense_, by the exercise of virtues supposed to be specially suited to
their condition, and called, by their masters, “thrift” and “industry.”
For this latter supposition there was no foundation: indeed, the poor
wretches who were thrown out of work by the triumphant march of commerce
had perforce worn thrift threadbare, and could hardly better their
exploits in _that_ direction; while as to those who worked in the
factories, or who formed the fringe of labour elsewhere, industry was no
new gospel to them, since they already worked as long as they could work
without dying at the loom, the spindle, or the stithy.  They for their
part had their hopes, vague enough as to their ultimate aim, but
expressed in the passing day by a very obvious tendency to revolt: this
tendency took various forms, which I cannot dwell on here, but settled
down at last into Chartism: about which I must speak a few words: but
first I must mention, I can scarce do more, the honoured name of Robert
Owen, as representative of the nobler hopes of his day, just as More was
of his, and the lifter of the torch of Socialism amidst the dark days of
the confusion consequent on the reckless greed of the early period of the
great factory industries.

That the conditions under which man lived could affect his life and his
deeds infinitely, that not selfish greed and ceaseless contention, but
brotherhood and co-operation were the bases of true society, was the
gospel which he preached and also practised with a single-heartedness,
devotion, and fervour of hope which have never been surpassed: he was the
embodied hope of the days when the advance of knowledge and the
sufferings of the people thrust revolutionary hope upon those thinkers
who were not in some form or other in the pay of the sordid masters of

As to the Chartist agitation, there is this to be said of it, that it was
thoroughly a working-class movement, and it was caused by the simplest
and most powerful of all causes—hunger.  It is noteworthy that it was
strongest, especially in its earlier days, in the Northern and Midland
manufacturing districts—that is, in the places which felt the distress
caused by the industrial revolution most sorely and directly; it sprang
up with particular vigour in the years immediately following the great
Reform Bill; and it has been remarked that disappointment of the hopes
which that measure had cherished had something to do with its bitterness.
As it went on, obvious causes for failure were developed in it;
self-seeking leadership; futile discussion of the means of making the
change, before organization of the party was perfected; blind fear of
ultimate consequences on the part of some, blind disregard to immediate
consequences on the part of others; these were the surface reasons for
its failure: but it would have triumphed over all these and accomplished
revolution in England, if it had not been for causes deeper and more
vital than these.  Chartism differed from mere Radicalism in being a
class movement; but its aim was after all political rather than social.
The Socialism of Robert Owen fell short of its object because it did not
understand that, as long as there is a privileged class in possession of
the executive power, they will take good care that their economical
position, which enables them to live on the unpaid labour of the people,
is not tampered with: the hopes of the Chartists were disappointed
because they did not understand that true political freedom is impossible
to people who are economically enslaved: there is no first and second in
these matters, the two must go hand in hand together: we cannot live as
we will, and as we should, as long as we allow people to _govern_ us
whose interest it is that we should live as _they_ will, and by no means
as we should; neither is it any use claiming the right to manage our own
business unless we are prepared to have some business of our own: these
two aims united mean the furthering of the class struggle till all
classes are abolished—the divorce of one from the other is fatal to any
hope of social advancement.

Chartism therefore, though a genuine popular movement, was incomplete in
its aims and knowledge; the time was not yet come and it could not
triumph openly; but it would be a mistake to say that it failed utterly:
at least it kept alive the holy flame of discontent; it made it possible
for us to attain to the political goal of democracy, and thereby to
advance the cause of the people by the gain of a stage from whence could
be seen the fresh gain to be aimed at.

I have said that the time for revolution had not then come: the great
wave of commercial success went on swelling, and though the capitalists
would if they had dared have engrossed the whole of the advantages
thereby gained at the expense of their wage slaves, the Chartist revolt
warned them that it was not safe to attempt it.  They were _forced_ to
try to allay discontent by palliative measures.  They had to allow
Factory Acts to be passed regulating the hours and conditions of labour
of women and children, and consequently of men also in some of the more
important and consolidated industries; they were _forced_ to repeal the
ferocious laws against combination among the workmen; so that the Trades
Unions won for themselves a legal position and became a power in the
labour question, and were able by means of strikes and threats of strikes
to regulate the wages granted to the workers, and to raise the standard
of livelihood for a certain part of the skilled workmen and the labourers
associated with them: though the main part of the unskilled, including
the agricultural workmen, were no better off than before.

Thus was damped down the flame of a discontent vague in its aims, and
passionately crying out for what, if granted, it could not have used:
twenty years ago any one hinting at the possibility of serious class
discontent in this country would have been looked upon as a madman; in
fact, the well-to-do and cultivated were quite unconscious (as many still
are) that there was any class distinction in this country other than what
was made by the rags and cast clothes of feudalism, which in a
perfunctory manner they still attacked.

There was no sign of revolutionary feeling in England twenty years ago:
the middle class were so rich that they had no need to hope for
anything—but a heaven which they did not believe in: the well-to-do
working men did not hope, since they were not pinched and had no means of
learning their degraded position: and lastly, the drudges of the
proletariat had such hope as charity, the hospital, the workhouse, and
kind death at last could offer them.

In this stock-jobbers’ heaven let us leave our dear countrymen for a
little, while I say a few words about the affairs of the people on the
continent of Europe.  Things were not quite so smooth for the fleecer
there: Socialist thinkers and writers had arisen about the same time as
Robert Owen; St. Simon, Proudhon, Fourier and his followers kept up the
traditions of hope in the midst of a _bourgeois_ world.  Amongst these
Fourier is the one that calls for most attention: since his doctrine of
the necessity and possibility of making labour attractive is one which
Socialism can by no means do without.  France also kept up the
revolutionary and insurrectionary tradition, the result of something like
hope still fermenting amongst the proletariat: she fell at last into the
clutches of a second Cæsarism developed by the basest set of sharpers,
swindlers, and harlots that ever insulted a country, and of whom our own
happy _bourgeois_ at home made heroes and heroines: the hideous open
corruption of Parisian society, to which, I repeat, our respectable
classes accorded heartfelt sympathy, was finally swept away by the
horrors of a race war: the defeats and disgraces of this war developed,
on the one hand, an increase in the wooden implacability and baseness of
the French _bourgeois_, but on the other made way for revolutionary hope
to spring again, from which resulted the attempt to establish society on
the basis of the freedom of labour, which we call the Commune of Paris of
1871.  Whatever mistakes or imprudences were made in this attempt, and
all wars blossom thick with such mistakes, I will leave the reactionary
enemies of the people’s cause to put forward: the immediate and obvious
result was the slaughter of thousands of brave and honest revolutionists
at the hands of the respectable classes, the loss in fact of an army for
the popular cause: but we may be sure that the results of the Commune
will not stop there: to all Socialists that heroic attempt will give hope
and ardour in the cause as long as it is to be won; we feel as though the
Paris workman had striven to bring the day-dawn for us, and had lifted us
the sun’s rim over the horizon, never to set in utter darkness again: of
such attempts one must say, that though those who perished in them might
have been put in a better place in the battle, yet after all brave men
never die for nothing, when they die for principle.

Let us shift from France to Germany before we get back to England again,
and conclude with a few words about our hopes at the present day.  To
Germany we owe the school of economists, at whose head stands the name of
Karl Marx, who have made modern Socialism what it is: the earlier
Socialist writers and preachers based their hopes on man being taught to
see the desirableness of co-operation taking the place of competition,
and adopting the change voluntarily and consciously, and they trusted to
schemes more or less artificial being tried and accepted, although such
schemes were necessarily constructed out of the materials which
capitalistic society offered: but the new school, starting with an
historical view of what had been, and seeing that a law of evolution
swayed all events in it, was able to point out to us that the evolution
was still going on, and that, whether Socialism be desirable or not, it
is at least inevitable.  Here then was at last a hope of a different kind
to any that had gone before it; and the German and Austrian workmen were
not slow to learn the lesson founded on this theory; from being one of
the most backward countries in Europe in the movement, before Lassalle
started his German workman’s party in 1863, Germany soon became the
leader in it: Bismarck’s repressive law has only acted on opinion there,
as the roller does to the growing grass—made it firmer and stronger; and
whatever vicissitudes may be the fate of the party as a party, there can
be no doubt that Socialistic opinion is firmly established there, and
that when the time is ripe for it that opinion will express itself in

Now, in all I have been saying, I have been wanting you to trace the fact
that, ever since the establishment of commercialism on the ruins of
feudality, there has been growing a steady feeling on the part of the
workers that they are a class dealt with as a class, and in like manner
to deal with others; and that as this class feeling has grown, so also
has grown with it a consciousness of the antagonism between their class
and the class which employs it, as the phrase goes; that is to say, which
lives by means of its labour.

Now it is just this growing consciousness of the fact that as long as
there exists in society a propertied class living on the labour of a
propertyless one, there _must_ be a struggle always going on between
those two classes—it is just the dawning knowledge of this fact which
should show us what civilization can hope for—namely, transformation into
true society, in which there will no longer be classes with their
necessary struggle for existence and superiority: for the antagonism of
classes which began in all simplicity between the master and the chattel
slave of ancient society, and was continued between the feudal lord and
the serf of mediæval society, has gradually become the contention between
the capitalist developed from the workman of the last-named period, and
the wage-earner: in the former struggle the rise of the artisan and
villenage tenant created a new class, the middle class, while the place
of the old serf was filled by the propertyless labourer, with whom the
middle class, which has absorbed the aristocracy, is now face to face:
the struggle between the classes therefore is once again a simple one, as
in the days of the classical peoples; but since there is no longer any
strong race left out of civilization, as in the time of the disruption of
Rome, the whole struggle in all its simplicity between those who have and
those who lack is _within_ civilization.

Moreover, the capitalist or modern slave-owner has been forced by his
very success, as we have seen, to organize his slaves, the wage-earners,
into a co-operation for production so well arranged that it requires
little but his own elimination to make it a foundation for communal life:
in the teeth also of the experience of past ages, he has been compelled
to allow a modicum of education to the propertyless, and has not even
been able to deprive them wholly of political rights; his own advance in
wealth and power has bred for him the very enemy who is doomed to make an
end of him.

But will there be any new class to take the place of the present
proletariat when that has triumphed, as it must do, over the present
privileged class?  We cannot foresee the future, but we may fairly hope
not: at least we cannot see any signs of such a new class forming.  It is
impossible to see how destruction of privilege can stop short of absolute
equality of condition; pure Communism is the logical deduction from the
imperfect form of the new society, which is generally differentiated from
it as Socialism.

Meantime, it is this simplicity and directness of the growing contest
which above all things presents itself as a terror to the conservative
instinct of the present day.  Many among the middle class who are
sincerely grieved and shocked at the condition of the proletariat which
civilization has created, and even alarmed by the frightful inequalities
which it fosters, do nevertheless shudder back from the idea of the class
struggle, and strive to shut their eyes to the fact that it is going on.
They try to think that peace is not only possible, but natural, between
the two classes, the very essence of whose existence is that each can
only thrive by what it manages to force the other to yield to it.  They
propose to themselves the impossible problem of raising the inferior or
exploited classes into a position in which they will cease to struggle
against the superior classes, while the latter will not cease to exploit
them.  This absurd position drives them into the concoction of schemes
for bettering the condition of the working classes at their own expense,
some of them futile, some merely fantastic; or they may be divided again
into those which point out the advantages and pleasures of involuntary
asceticism, and reactionary plans for importing the conditions of the
production and life of the Middle Ages (wholly misunderstood by them, by
the way) into the present system of the capitalist farmer, the great
industries, and the universal world-market.  Some see a solution of the
social problem in sham co-operation, which is merely an improved form of
joint-stockery: others preach thrift to (precarious) incomes of eighteen
shillings a week, and industry to men killing themselves by inches in
working overtime, or to men whom the labour-market has rejected as not
wanted: others beg the proletarians not to breed so fast; an injunction
the compliance with which might be at first of advantage to the
proletarians themselves in their present condition, but would certainly
undo the capitalists, if it were carried to any lengths, and would lead
through ruin and misery to the violent outbreak of the very revolution
which these timid people are so anxious to forego.

Then there are others who, looking back on the past, and perceiving that
the workmen of the Middle Ages lived in more comfort and self-respect
than ours do, even though they were subjected to the class rule of men
who were looked on as another order of beings than they, think that if
those conditions of life could be reproduced under our better political
conditions the question would be solved for a time at least.  Their
schemes may be summed up in attempts, more or less preposterously futile,
to graft a class of independent peasants on our system of wages and
capital.  They do not understand that this system of independent workmen,
producing almost entirely for the consumption of themselves and their
neighbours, and exploited by the upper classes by obvious taxes on their
labour, which was not otherwise organized or interfered with by the
exploiters, was what in past times took the place of our system, in which
the workers sell their labour in the competitive market to masters who
have in their hands the whole organization of the markets, and that these
two systems are mutually destructive.

Others again believe in the possibility of starting from our present
workhouse system, for the raising of the lowest part of the working
population into a better condition, but do not trouble themselves as to
the position of the workers who are fairly above the condition of
pauperism, or consider what part they will play in the contest for a
better livelihood.  And, lastly, quite a large number of well-intentioned
persons belonging to the richer classes believe, that in a society that
compels competition for livelihood, and holds out to the workers as a
stimulus to exertion the hope of their rising into a monopolist class of
non-producers, it is yet possible to “moralize” capital (to use a slang
phrase of the Positivists): that is to say, that a sentiment imported
from a religion which looks upon another world as the true sphere of
action for mankind, will override the necessities of our daily life in
this world.  This curious hope is founded on the feeling that a sentiment
antagonistic to the full development of commercialism exists and is
gaining ground, and that this sentiment is an independent growth of the
ethics of the present epoch.  As a matter of fact, admitting its
existence, as I think we must do, it is the birth of the sense of
insecurity which is the shadow cast before by the approaching dissolution
of modern society founded on wage-slavery.

The greater part of these schemes aim, though seldom with the
consciousness of their promoters, at the creation of a new middle-class
out of the wage-earning class, and at their expense, just as the present
middle-class was developed out of the serf-population of the early Middle
Ages.  It may be possible that such a _further_ development of the
middle-class lies before us, but it will not be brought about by any such
artificial means as the abovementioned schemes.  If it comes at all, it
must be produced by events, which at present we cannot foresee, acting on
our commercial system, and revivifying for a little time, maybe, that
Capitalist Society which now seems sickening towards its end.

For what is visible before us in these days is the competitive commercial
system killing itself by its own force: profits lessening, businesses
growing bigger and bigger, the small employer of labour thrust out of his
function, and the aggregation of capital increasing the numbers of the
lower middle-class from above rather than from below, by driving the
smaller manufacturer into the position of a mere servant to the bigger.
The productivity of labour also increasing out of all proportion to the
capacity of the capitalists to manage the market or deal with the labour
supply: lack of employment therefore becoming chronic, and discontent

All this on the one hand.  On the other, the workmen claiming everywhere
political equality, which cannot long be denied; and education spreading,
so that what between the improvement in the education of the
working-class and the continued amazing fatuity of that of the upper
classes, there is a distinct tendency to equalization here; and, as I
have hinted above, all history shows us what a danger to society may be a
class at once educated and socially degraded: though, indeed, no history
has yet shown us—what is swiftly advancing upon us—a class which, though
it shall have attained knowledge, shall lack utterly the refinement and
self-respect which come from the union of knowledge with leisure and ease
of life.  The growth of such a class may well make the “cultured” people
of to-day tremble.

Whatever, therefore, of unforeseen and unconceived-of may lie in the womb
of the future, there is nothing visible before us but a decaying system,
with no outlook but ever-increasing entanglement and blindness, and a new
system, Socialism, the hope of which is ever growing clearer in men’s
minds—a system which not only sees how labour can be freed from its
present fetters, and organized unwastefully, so as to produce the
greatest possible amount of wealth for the community and for every member
of it, but which bears with it its own ethics and religion and æsthetics:
that is the hope and promise of a new and higher life in all ways.  So
that even if those unforeseen economical events above spoken of were to
happen, and put off for a while the end of our Capitalist system, the
latter would drag itself along as an anomaly cursed by all, a mere clog
on the aspirations of humanity.

It is not likely that it will come to that: in all probability the
logical outcome of the latter days of Capitalism will go step by step
with its actual history: while all men, even its declared enemies, will
be working to bring Socialism about, the aims of those who have learned
to believe in the certainty and beneficence of its advent will become
clearer, their methods for realizing it clearer also, and at last ready
to hand.  Then will come that open acknowledgment for the necessity of
the change (an acknowledgment coming from the intelligence of
civilization) which is commonly called Revolution.  It is no use
prophesying as to the events which will accompany that revolution, but to
a reasonable man it seems unlikely to the last degree, or we will say
impossible, that a moral sentiment will induce the proprietary
classes—those who live by _owning_ the means of production which the
unprivileged classes must needs _use_—to yield up this privilege
uncompelled; all one can hope is that they will see the implicit threat
of compulsion in the events of the day, and so yield with a good grace to
the terrible necessity of forming part of a world in which all, including
themselves, will work honestly and live easily.


IN considering the Aims of Art, that is, why men toilsomely cherish and
practise Art, I find myself compelled to generalize from the only
specimen of humanity of which I know anything; to wit, myself.  Now, when
I think of what it is that I desire, I find that I can give it no other
name than happiness.  I want to be happy while I live; for as for death,
I find that, never having experienced it, I have no conception of what it
means, and so cannot even bring my mind to bear upon it.  I know what it
is to live; I cannot even guess what it is to be dead.  Well, then, I
want to be happy, and even sometimes, say generally, to be merry; and I
find it difficult to believe that that is not the universal desire: so
that, whatever tends towards that end I cherish with all my best
endeavour.  Now, when I consider my life further, I find out, or seem to,
that it is under the influence of two dominating moods, which for lack of
better words I must call the mood of energy and the mood of idleness:
these two moods are now one, now the other, always crying out in me to be
satisfied.  When the mood of energy is upon me, I must be doing
something, or I become mopish and unhappy; when the mood of idleness is
on me, I find it hard indeed if I cannot rest and let my mind wander over
the various pictures, pleasant or terrible, which my own experience or my
communing with the thoughts of other men, dead or alive, have fashioned
in it; and if circumstances will not allow me to cultivate this mood of
idleness, I find I must at the best pass through a period of pain till I
can manage to stimulate my mood of energy to take its place and make me
happy again.  And if I have no means wherewith to rouse up that mood of
energy to do its duty in making me happy, and I have to toil while the
idle mood is upon me, then am I unhappy indeed, and almost wish myself
dead, though I do not know what that means.

Furthermore, I find that while in the mood of idleness memory amuses me,
in the mood of energy hope cheers me; which hope is sometimes big and
serious, and sometimes trivial, but that without it there is no happy
energy.  Again, I find that while I can sometimes satisfy this mood by
merely exercising it in work that has no result beyond the passing
hour—in play, in short—yet that it presently wearies of that and gets
languid, the hope therein being too trivial, and sometimes even scarcely
real; and that on the whole, to satisfy my master the mood, I must either
be making something or making believe to make it.

Well, I believe that all men’s lives are compounded of these two moods in
various proportions, and that this explains why they have always, with
more or less of toil, cherished and practised art.

Why should they have touched it else, and so added to the labour which
they could not choose but do in order to live?  It must have been done
for their pleasure, since it has only been in very elaborate
civilizations that a man could get other men to keep him alive merely to
produce works of art, whereas all men that have left any signs of their
existence behind them have practised art.

I suppose, indeed, that nobody will be inclined to deny that the end
proposed by a work of art is always to please the person whose senses are
to be made conscious of it.  It was done _for_ some one who was to be
made happier by it; his idle or restful mood was to be amused by it, so
that the vacancy which is the besetting evil of that mood might give
place to pleased contemplation, dreaming, or what you will; and by this
means he would not so soon be driven into his workful or energetic mood:
he would have more enjoyment, and better.

The restraining of restlessness, therefore, is clearly one of the
essential aims of art, and few things could add to the pleasure of life
more than this.  There are, to my knowledge, gifted people now alive who
have no other vice than this of restlessness, and seemingly no other
curse in their lives to make them unhappy: but that is enough; it is “the
little rift within the lute.”  Restlessness makes them hapless men and
bad citizens.

But granting, as I suppose you all will do, that this is a most important
function for art to fulfil, the question next comes, at what price do we
obtain it?  I have admitted that the practice of art has added to the
labour of mankind, though I believe in the long run it will not do so;
but in adding to the labour of man has it added, so far, to his pain?
There always have been people who would at once say yes to that question;
so that there have been and are two sets of people who dislike and
contemn art as an embarrassing folly.  Besides the pious ascetics, who
look upon it as a worldly entanglement which prevents men from keeping
their minds fixed on the chances of their individual happiness or misery
in the next world; who, in short, hate art, because they think that it
adds to man’s earthly happiness—besides these, there are also people who,
looking on the struggle of life from the most reasonable point that they
know of, contemn the arts because they think that they add to man’s
slavery by increasing the sum of his painful labour: if this were the
case, it would still, to my mind, be a question whether it might not be
worth the while to endure the extra pain of labour for the sake of the
extra pleasure added to rest; assuming, for the present, equality of
condition among men.  But it seems to me that it is not the case that the
practice of art adds to painful labour; nay more, I believe that, if it
did, art would never have arisen at all, would certainly not be
discernible, as it is, among peoples in whom only the germs of
civilization exist.  In other words, I believe that art cannot be the
result of external compulsion; the labour which goes to produce it is
voluntary, and partly undertaken for the sake of the labour itself,
partly for the sake of the hope of producing something which, when done,
shall give pleasure to the user of it.  Or, again, this extra labour,
when it is extra, is undertaken with the aim of satisfying that mood of
energy by employing it to produce something worth doing, and which,
therefore, will keep before the worker a lively hope while he is working;
and also by giving it work to do in which there is absolute immediate
pleasure.  Perhaps it is difficult to explain to the non-artistic
capacity that this definite sensuous pleasure is always present in the
handiwork of the deft workman when he is working successfully, and that
it increases in proportion to the freedom and individuality of the work.
Also you must understand that this production of art, and consequent
pleasure in work, is not confined to the production of matters which are
works of art only, like pictures, statues, and so forth, but has been and
should be a part of all labour in some form or other: so only will the
claims of the mood of energy be satisfied.

Therefore the Aim of Art is to increase the happiness of men, by giving
them beauty and interest of incident to amuse their leisure, and prevent
them wearying even of rest, and by giving them hope and bodily pleasure
in their work; or, shortly, to make man’s work happy and his rest
fruitful.  Consequently, genuine art is an unmixed blessing to the race
of man.

But as the word “genuine” is a large qualification, I must ask leave to
attempt to draw some practical conclusions from this assertion of the
Aims of Art, which will, I suppose, or indeed hope, lead us into some
controversy on the subject; because it is futile indeed to expect any one
to speak about art, except in the most superficial way, without
encountering those social problems which all serious men are thinking of;
since art is and must be, either in its abundance or its barrenness, in
its sincerity or its hollowness, the expression of the society amongst
which it exists.

First, then, it is clear to me that, at the present time, those who look
widest at things and deepest into them are quite dissatisfied with the
present state of the arts, as they are also with the present condition of
society.  This I say in the teeth of the supposed revivification of art
which has taken place of late years: in fact, that very excitement about
the arts amongst a part of the cultivated people of to-day does but show
on how firm a basis the dissatisfaction above mentioned rests.  Forty
years ago there was much less talk about art, much less practice of it,
than there is now; and that is specially true of the architectural arts,
which I shall mostly have to speak about now.  People have consciously
striven to raise the dead in art since that time, and with some
superficial success.  Nevertheless, in spite of this conscious effort, I
must tell you that England, to a person who can feel and understand
beauty, was a less grievous place to live in then than it is now; and we
who feel what art means know well, though we do not often dare to say so,
that forty years hence it will be a more grievous place to us than it is
now if we still follow up the road we are on.  Less than forty years
ago—about thirty—I first saw the city of Rouen, then still in its outward
aspect a piece of the Middle Ages: no words can tell you how its mingled
beauty, history, and romance took hold on me; I can only say that,
looking back on my past life, I find it was the greatest pleasure I have
ever had: and now it is a pleasure which no one can ever have again: it
is lost to the world for ever.  At that time I was an undergraduate of
Oxford.  Though not so astounding, so romantic, or at first sight so
mediæval as the Norman city, Oxford in those days still kept a great deal
of its earlier loveliness: and the memory of its grey streets as they
then were has been an abiding influence and pleasure in my life, and
would be greater still if I could only forget what they are now—a matter
of far more importance than the so-called learning of the place could
have been to me in any case, but which, as it was, no one tried to teach
me, and I did not try to learn.  Since then the guardians of this beauty
and romance so fertile of education, though professedly engaged in “the
higher education” (as the futile system of compromises which they follow
is nick-named), have ignored it utterly, have made its preservation give
way to the pressure of commercial exigencies, and are determined
apparently to destroy it altogether.  There is another pleasure for the
world gone down the wind; here, again, the beauty and romance have been
uselessly, causelessly, most foolishly thrown away.

These two cases are given simply because they have been fixed in my mind;
they are but types of what is going on everywhere throughout
civilization: the world is everywhere growing uglier and more
commonplace, in spite of the conscious and very strenuous efforts of a
small group of people towards the revival of art, which are so obviously
out of joint with the tendency of the age that, while the uncultivated
have not even heard of them, the mass of the cultivated look upon them as
a joke, and even that they are now beginning to get tired of.

Now, if it be true, as I have asserted, that genuine art is an unmixed
blessing to the world, this is a serious matter; for at first sight it
seems to show that there will soon be no art at all in the world, which
will thus lose an unmixed blessing; it can ill afford to do that, I

For art, if it has to die, has worn itself out, and its aim will be a
thing forgotten; and its aim was to make work happy and rest fruitful.
Is all work to be unhappy, all rest unfruitful, then?  Indeed, if art is
to perish, that will be the case, unless something is to take its
place—something at present unnamed, undreamed of.

I do not think that anything will take the place of art; not that I doubt
the ingenuity of man, which seems to be boundless in the direction of
making himself unhappy, but because I believe the springs of art in the
human mind to be deathless, and also because it seems to me easy to see
the causes of the present obliteration of the arts.

For we civilized people have not given them up consciously, or of our
free will; we have been _forced_ to give them up.  Perhaps I can
illustrate that by the detail of the application of machinery to the
production of things in which artistic form of some sort is possible.
Why does a reasonable man use a machine?  Surely to save his labour.
There are some things which a machine can do as well as a man’s hand,
_plus_ a tool, can do them.  He need not, for instance, grind his corn in
a hand-quern; a little trickle of water, a wheel, and a few simple
contrivances will do it all perfectly well, and leave him free to smoke
his pipe and think, or to carve the handle of his knife.  That, so far,
is unmixed gain in the use of a machine—always, mind you, supposing
equality of condition among men; no art is lost, leisure or time for more
pleasurable work is gained.  Perhaps a perfectly reasonable and free man
would stop there in his dealings with machinery; but such reason and
freedom are too much to expect, so let us follow our machine-inventor a
step farther.  He has to weave plain cloth, and finds doing so dullish on
the one hand, and on the other that a power-loom will weave the cloth
nearly as well as a hand-loom: so, in order to gain more leisure or time
for more pleasurable work, he uses a power-loom, and foregoes the small
advantage of the little extra art in the cloth.  But so doing, as far as
the art is concerned, he has not got a pure gain; he has made a bargain
between art and labour, and got a makeshift as a consequence.  I do not
say that he may not be right in so doing, but that he has lost as well as
gained.  Now, this is as far as a man who values art and is reasonable
would go in the matter of machinery _as long as he was free_—that is, was
not _forced_ to work for another man’s profit; so long as he was living
in a society _that had accepted equality of condition_.  Carry the
machine used for art a step farther, and he becomes an unreasonable man,
if he values art and is free.  To avoid misunderstanding, I must say that
I am thinking of the modern machine, which is as it were alive, and to
which the man is auxiliary, and not of the old machine, the improved
tool, which is auxiliary to the man, and only works as long as his hand
is thinking; though I will remark, that even this elementary form of
machine has to be dropped when we come to the higher and more intricate
forms of art.  Well, as to the machine proper used for art, when it gets
to the stage above dealing with a necessary production that has
accidentally some beauty about it, a reasonable man with a feeling for
art will only use it when he is forced to.  If he thinks he would like
ornament, for instance, and knows that the machine cannot do it properly,
and does not care to spend the time to do it properly, why should he do
it at all?  He will not diminish his leisure for the sake of making
something he does not want unless some man or band of men force him to
it; so he will either go without the ornament, or sacrifice some of his
leisure to have it genuine.  That will be a sign that he wants it very
much, and that it will be worth his trouble: in which case, again, his
labour on it will not be mere trouble, but will interest and please him
by satisfying the needs of his mood of energy.

This, I say, is how a reasonable man would act if he were free from man’s
compulsion; not being free, he acts very differently.  He has long passed
the stage at which machines are only used for doing work repulsive to an
average man, or for doing what could be as well done by a machine as a
man, and he instinctively expects a machine to be invented whenever any
product of industry becomes sought after.  He is the slave to machinery;
the new machine _must_ be invented, and when invented he _must_—I will
not say use it, but be used by it, whether he likes it or not.

But why is he the slave to machinery?  Because he is the slave to the
system for whose existence the invention of machinery was necessary.

And now I must drop, or rather have dropped, the assumption of the
equality of condition, and remind you that, though in a sense we are all
the slaves of machinery, yet that some men are so directly without any
metaphor at all, and that these are just those on whom the great body of
the arts depends—the workmen.  It is necessary for the system which keeps
them in their position as an inferior class that they should either be
themselves machines or be the servants to machines, in no case having any
interest in the work which they turn out.  To their employers they are,
so far as they are workmen, a part of the machinery of the workshop or
the factory; to themselves they are proletarians, human beings working to
live that they may live to work: their part of craftsmen, of makers of
things by their own free will, is played out.

At the risk of being accused of sentimentality, I will say that since
this is so, since the work which produces the things that should be
matters of art is but a burden and a slavery, I exult in this at least,
that it cannot produce art; that all it can do lies between stark
utilitarianism and idiotic sham.

Or indeed is that merely sentimental?  Rather, I think, we who have
learned to see the connection between industrial slavery and the
degradation of the arts have learned also to hope for a future for those
arts; since the day will certainly come when men will shake off the yoke,
and refuse to accept the mere artificial compulsion of the gambling
market to waste their lives in ceaseless and hopeless toil; and when it
does come, their instincts for beauty and imagination set free along with
them, will produce such art as they need; and who can say that it will
not as far surpass the art of past ages as that does the poor relics of
it left us by the age of commerce?

A word or two on an objection which has often been made to me when I have
been talking on this subject.  It may be said, and is often, You regret
the art of the Middle Ages (as indeed I do), but those who produced it
were not free; they were serfs, or gild-craftsmen surrounded by brazen
walls of trade restrictions; they had no political rights, and were
exploited by their masters, the noble caste, most grievously.  Well, I
quite admit that the oppression and violence of the Middle Ages had its
effect on the art of those days, its shortcomings are traceable to them;
they repressed art in certain directions, I do not doubt that; and for
that reason I say, that when we shake off the present oppression as we
shook off the old, we may expect the art of the days of real freedom to
rise above that of those old violent days.  But I do say that it was
possible then to have social, organic, hopeful progressive art; whereas
now such poor scraps of it as are left are the result of individual and
wasteful struggle, are retrospective and pessimistic.  And this hopeful
art was possible amidst all the oppression of those days, because the
instruments of that oppression were grossly obvious, and were external to
the work of the craftsman.  They were laws and customs obviously intended
to rob him, and open violence of the highway-robbery kind.  In short,
industrial production was not the instrument used for robbing the “lower
classes;” it is now the main instrument used in that honourable
profession.  The mediæval craftsman was free in his work, therefore he
made it as amusing to himself as he could; and it was his pleasure and
not his pain that made all things beautiful that were made, and lavished
treasures of human hope and thought on everything that man made, from a
cathedral to a porridge-pot.  Come, let us put it in the way least
respectful to the mediæval craftsman, most polite to the modern “hand:”
the poor devil of the fourteenth century, his work was of so little value
that he was allowed to waste it by the hour in pleasing himself—and
others; but our highly-strung mechanic, his minutes are too rich with the
burden of perpetual profit for him to be allowed to waste one of them on
art; the present system will not allow him—cannot allow him—to produce
works of art.

                                * * * * *

So that there has arisen this strange phenomenon, that there is now a
class of ladies and gentlemen, very refined indeed, though not perhaps as
well informed as is generally supposed, and of this refined class there
are many who do really love beauty and incident—i.e., art, and would make
sacrifices to get it; and these are led by artists of great manual skill
and high intellect, forming altogether a large body of demand for the
article.  And yet the supply does not come.  Yes, and moreover, this
great body of enthusiastic demanders are no mere poor and helpless
people, ignorant fisher-peasants, half-mad monks, scatter-brained
sansculottes—none of those, in short, the expression of whose needs has
shaken the world so often before, and will do yet again.  No, they are of
the ruling classes, the masters of men, who can live without labour, and
have abundant leisure to scheme out the fulfilment of their desires; and
yet I say they cannot have the art which they so much long for, though
they hunt it about the world so hard, sentimentalizing the sordid lives
of the miserable peasants of Italy and the starving proletarians of her
towns, now that all the picturesqueness has departed from the poor devils
of our own country-side, and of our own slums.  Indeed, there is little
of reality left them anywhere, and that little is fast fading away before
the needs of the manufacturer and his ragged regiment of workers, and
before the enthusiasm of the archæological restorer of the dead past.
Soon there will be nothing left except the lying dreams of history, the
miserable wreckage of our museums and picture-galleries, and the
carefully guarded interiors of our æsthetic drawing-rooms, unreal and
foolish, fitting witnesses of the life of corruption that goes on there,
so pinched and meagre and cowardly, with its concealment and ignoring,
rather than restraint of, natural longings; which does not forbid the
greedy indulgence in them if it can but be decently hidden.

The art then is gone, and can no more be “restored” on its old lines than
a mediæval building can be.  The rich and refined cannot have it though
they would, and though we will believe many of them would.  And why?
Because those who could give it to the rich are not allowed by the rich
to do so.  In one word, slavery lies between us and art.

I have said as much as that the aim of art was to destroy the curse of
labour by making work the pleasurable satisfaction of our impulse towards
energy, and giving to that energy hope of producing something worth its

Now, therefore, I say, that since we cannot have art by striving after
its mere superficial manifestation, since we can have nothing but its
sham by so doing, there yet remains for us to see how it would be if we
let the shadow take care of itself and try, if we can, to lay hold of the
substance.  For my part I believe, that if we try to realize the aims of
art without much troubling ourselves what the aspect of the art itself
shall be, we shall find we shall have what we want at last: whether it is
to be called art or not, it will at least be _life_; and, after all, that
is what we want.  It may lead us into new splendours and beauties of
visible art; to architecture with manifolded magnificence free from the
curious incompleteness and failings of that which the older times have
produced—to painting, uniting to the beauty which mediæval art attained
the realism which modern art aims at; to sculpture, uniting the beauty of
the Greek and the expression of the Renaissance with some third quality
yet undiscovered, so as to give us the images of men and women splendidly
alive, yet not disqualified from making, as all true sculpture should,
architectural ornament.  All this it may do; or, on the other hand, it
may lead us into the desert, and art may seem to be dead amidst us; or
feebly and uncertainly to be struggling in a world which has utterly
forgotten its old glories.

For my part, with art as it now is, I cannot bring myself to think that
it much matters which of these dooms awaits it, so long as each bears
with it some hope of what is to come; since here, as in other matters,
there is no hope save in Revolution.  The old art is no longer fertile,
no longer yields us anything save elegantly poetical regrets; being
barren, it has but to die, and the matter of moment now is, as to how it
shall die, whether _with_ hope or _without_ it.

What is it, for instance, that has destroyed the Rouen, the Oxford of
_my_ elegant poetic regret?  Has it perished for the benefit of the
people, either slowly yielding to the growth of intelligent change and
new happiness? or has it been, as it were, thunderstricken by the tragedy
which mostly accompanies some great new birth?  Not so.  Neither
phalangstere nor dynamite has swept its beauty away, its destroyers have
not been either the philanthropist or the Socialist, the co-operator or
the anarchist.  It has been sold, and at a cheap price indeed: muddled
away by the greed and incompetence of fools who do not know what life and
pleasure mean, who will neither take them themselves nor let others have
them.  That is why the death of that beauty wounds us so: no man of sense
or feeling would dare to regret such losses if they had been paid for by
new life and happiness for the people.  But there is the people still as
it was before, still facing for its part the monster who destroyed all
that beauty, and whose name is Commercial Profit.

I repeat, that every scrap of genuine art will fall by the same hands if
the matter only goes on long enough, although a sham art may be left in
its place, which may very well be carried on by _dilettanti_ fine
gentlemen and ladies without any help from below; and, to speak plainly,
I fear that this gibbering ghost of the real thing would satisfy a great
many of those who now think themselves lovers of art; though it is not
difficult to see a long vista of its degradation till it shall become at
last a mere laughing-stock; that is to say, if the thing were to go on: I
mean, if art were to be for ever the amusement of those whom we now call
ladies and gentlemen.

But for my part I do not think it will go on long enough to reach such
depths as that; and yet I should be hypocritical if I were to say that I
thought that the change in the basis of society, which would enfranchise
labour and make men practically equal in condition, would lead us by a
short road to the splendid new birth of art which I have mentioned,
though I feel quite certain that it would not leave what we now call art
untouched, since the aims of that revolution do include the aims of
art—viz., abolishing the curse of labour.

I suppose that this is what is likely to happen; that machinery will go
on developing, with the purpose of saving men labour, till the mass of
the people attain real leisure enough to be able to appreciate the
pleasure of life; till, in fact, they have attained such mastery over
Nature that they no longer fear starvation as a penalty for not working
more than enough.  When they get to that point they will doubtless turn
themselves and begin to find out what it is that they really want to do.
They would soon find out that the less work they did (the less work
unaccompanied by art, I mean), the more desirable a dwelling-place the
earth would be; they would accordingly do less and less work, till the
mood of energy, of which I began by speaking, urged them on afresh: but
by that time Nature, relieved by the relaxation of man’s work, would be
recovering her ancient beauty, and be teaching men the old story of art.
And as the Artificial Famine, caused by men working for the profit of a
master, and which we now look upon as a matter of course, would have long
disappeared, they would be free to do as they chose, and they would set
aside their machines in all cases where the work seemed pleasant or
desirable for handiwork; till in all crafts where production of beauty
was required, the most direct communication between a man’s hand and his
brain would be sought for.  And there would be many occupations also, as
the processes of agriculture, in which the voluntary exercise of energy
would be thought so delightful, that people would not dream of handing
over its pleasure to the jaws of a machine.

In short, men will find out that the men of our days were wrong in first
multiplying their needs, and then trying, each man of them, to evade all
participation in the means and processes whereby those needs are
satisfied; that this kind of division of labour is really only a new and
wilful form of arrogant and slothful ignorance, far more injurious to the
happiness and contentment of life than the ignorance of the processes of
Nature, of what we sometimes call _science_, which men of the earlier
days unwittingly lived in.

They will discover, or rediscover rather, that the true secret of
happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of
daily life, in elevating them by art instead of handing the performance
of them over to unregarded drudges, and ignoring them; and that in cases
where it was impossible either so to elevate them and make them
interesting, or to lighten them by the use of machinery, so as to make
the labour of them trifling, that should be taken as a token that the
supposed advantages gained by them were not worth the trouble and had
better be given up.  All this to my mind would be the outcome of men
throwing off the burden of Artificial Famine, supposing, as I cannot help
supposing, that the impulses which have from the first glimmerings of
history urged men on to the practice of Art were still at work in them.

Thus and thus only _can_ come about the new birth of Art, and I think it
_will_ come about thus.  You may say it is a long process, and so it is;
but I can conceive of a longer.  I have given you the Socialist or
Optimist view of the matter.  Now for the Pessimist view.

I can conceive that the revolt against Artificial Famine or Capitalism,
which is now on foot, may be vanquished.  The result will be that the
working class—the slaves of society—will become more and more degraded;
that they will not strive against overwhelming force, but, stimulated by
that love of life which Nature, always anxious about the perpetuation of
the race, has implanted in us, will learn to bear everything—starvation,
overwork, dirt, ignorance, brutality.  All these things they will bear,
as, alas! they bear them too well even now; all this rather than risk
sweet life and bitter livelihood, and all sparks of hope and manliness
will die out of them.

Nor will their masters be much better off: the earth’s surface will be
hideous everywhere, save in the uninhabitable desert; Art will utterly
perish, as in the manual arts so in literature, which will become, as it
is indeed speedily becoming, a mere string of orderly and calculated
ineptitudes and passionless ingenuities; Science will grow more and more
one-sided, more incomplete, more wordy and useless, till at last she will
pile herself up into such a mass of superstition, that beside it the
theologies of old time will seem mere reason and enlightenment.  All will
get lower and lower, till the heroic struggles of the past to realize
hope from year to year, from century to century, will be utterly
forgotten, and man will be an indescribable being—hopeless, desireless,

And will there be deliverance from this even?  Maybe: man may, after some
terrible cataclysm, learn to strive towards a healthy animalism, may grow
from a tolerable animal into a savage, from a savage into a barbarian,
and so on; and some thousands of years hence he may be beginning once
more those arts which we have now lost, and be carving interlacements
like the New Zealanders, or scratching forms of animals on their cleaned
blade-bones, like the pre-historic men of the drift.

But in any case, according to the pessimist view, which looks upon revolt
against Artificial Famine as impossible to succeed, we shall wearily
trudge the circle again, until some accident, some unforeseen consequence
of arrangement, makes an end of us altogether.

That pessimism I do not believe in, nor, on the other hand, do I suppose
that it is altogether a matter of our wills as to whether we shall
further human progress or human degradation; yet, since there are those
who are impelled towards the Socialist or Optimistic side of things, I
must conclude that there is some hope of its prevailing, that the
strenuous efforts of many individuals imply a force which is thrusting
them on.  So that I believe that the “Aims of Art” will be realized,
though I know that they cannot be, so long as we groan under the tyranny
of Artificial Famine.  Once again I warn you against supposing, you who
may specially love art, that you will do any good by attempting to
revivify art by dealing with its dead exterior.  I say it is the _aims of
art_ that you must seek rather than the _art itself_; and in that search
we may find ourselves in a world blank and bare, as the result of our
caring at least this much for art, that we will not endure the shams of

Anyhow, I ask you to think with me that the worst which can happen to us
is to endure tamely the evils that we see; that no trouble or turmoil is
so bad as that; that the necessary destruction which reconstruction bears
with it must be taken calmly; that everywhere—in State, in Church, in the
household—we must be resolute to endure no tyranny, accept no lie, quail
before no fear, although they may come before us disguised as piety,
duty, or affection, as useful opportunity and good-nature, as prudence or
kindness.  The world’s roughness, falseness, and injustice will bring
about their natural consequences, and we and our lives are part of those
consequences; but since we inherit also the consequences of old
resistance to those curses, let us each look to it to have our fair share
of that inheritance also, which, if nothing else come of it, will at
least bring to us courage and hope; that is, eager life while we live,
which is above all things the Aim of Art.


THE above title may strike some of my readers as strange.  It is assumed
by most people nowadays that all work is useful, and by most well-to-to
people that all work is desirable.  Most people, well-to-do or not,
believe that, even when a man is doing work which appears to be useless,
he is earning his livelihood by it—he is “employed,” as the phrase goes;
and most of those who are well-to-do cheer on the happy worker with
congratulations and praises, if he is only “industrious” enough and
deprives himself of all pleasure and holidays in the sacred cause of
labour.  In short, it has become an article of the creed of modern
morality that all labour is good in itself—a convenient belief to those
who live on the labour of others.  But as to those on whom they live, I
recommend them not to take it on trust, but to look into the matter a
little deeper.

Let us grant, first, that the race of man must either labour or perish.
Nature does not give us our livelihood gratis; we must win it by toil of
some sort or degree.  Let us see, then, if she does not give us some
compensation for this compulsion to labour, since certainly in other
matters she takes care to make the acts necessary to the continuance of
life in the individual and the race not only endurable, but even

You may be sure that she does so, that it is of the nature of man, when
he is not diseased, to take pleasure in his work under certain
conditions.  And, yet, we must say in the teeth of the hypocritical
praise of all labour, whatsoever it may be, of which I have made mention,
that there is some labour which is so far from being a blessing that it
is a curse; that it would be better for the community and for the worker
if the latter were to fold his hands and refuse to work, and either die
or let us pack him off to the workhouse or prison—which you will.

Here, you see, are two kinds of work—one good, the other bad; one not far
removed from a blessing, a lightening of life; the other a mere curse, a
burden to life.

What is the difference between them, then?  This: one has hope in it, the
other has not.  It is manly to do the one kind of work, and manly also to
refuse to do the other.

What is the nature of the hope which, when it is present in work, makes
it worth doing?

It is threefold, I think—hope of rest, hope of product, hope of pleasure
in the work itself; and hope of these also in some abundance and of good
quality; rest enough and good enough to be worth having; product worth
having by one who is neither a fool nor an ascetic; pleasure enough for
all for us to be conscious of it while we are at work; not a mere habit,
the loss of which we shall feel as a fidgety man feels the loss of the
bit of string he fidgets with.

I have put the hope of rest first because it is the simplest and most
natural part of our hope.  Whatever pleasure there is in some work, there
is certainly some pain in all work, the beast-like pain of stirring up
our slumbering energies to action, the beast-like dread of change when
things are pretty well with us; and the compensation for this animal pain
is animal rest.  We must feel while we are working that the time will
come when we shall not have to work.  Also the rest, when it comes, must
be long enough to allow us to enjoy it; it must be longer than is merely
necessary for us to recover the strength we have expended in working, and
it must be animal rest also in this, that it must not be disturbed by
anxiety, else we shall not be able to enjoy it.  If we have this amount
and kind of rest we shall, so far, be no worse off than the beasts.

As to the hope of product, I have said that Nature compels us to work for
that.  It remains for _us_ to look to it that we _do_ really produce
something, and not nothing, or at least nothing that we want or are
allowed to use.  If we look to this and use our wills we shall, so far,
be better than machines.

The hope of pleasure in the work itself: how strange that hope must seem
to some of my readers—to most of them!  Yet I think that to all living
things there is a pleasure in the exercise of their energies, and that
even beasts rejoice in being lithe and swift and strong.  But a man at
work, making something which he feels will exist because he is working at
it and wills it, is exercising the energies of his mind and soul as well
as of his body.  Memory and imagination help him as he works.  Not only
his own thoughts, but the thoughts of the men of past ages guide his
hands; and, as a part of the human race, he creates.  If we work thus we
shall be men, and our days will be happy and eventful.

Thus worthy work carries with it the hope of pleasure in rest, the hope
of the pleasure in our using what it makes, and the hope of pleasure in
our daily creative skill.

All other work but this is worthless; it is slaves’ work—mere toiling to
live, that we may live to toil.

Therefore, since we have, as it were, a pair of scales in which to weigh
the work now done in the world, let us use them.  Let us estimate the
worthiness of the work we do, after so many thousand years of toil, so
many promises of hope deferred, such boundless exultation over the
progress of civilization and the gain of liberty.

Now, the first thing as to the work done in civilization and the easiest
to notice is that it is portioned out very unequally amongst the
different classes of society.  First, there are people—not a few—who do
no work, and make no pretence of doing any.  Next, there are people, and
very many of them, who work fairly hard, though with abundant easements
and holidays, claimed and allowed; and lastly, there are people who work
so hard that they may be said to do nothing else than work, and are
accordingly called “the working classes,” as distinguished from the
middle classes and the rich, or aristocracy, whom I have mentioned above.

It is clear that this inequality presses heavily upon the “working”
class, and must visibly tend to destroy their hope of rest at least, and
so, in that particular, make them worse off than mere beasts of the
field; but that is not the sum and end of our folly of turning useful
work into useless toil, but only the beginning of it.

For first, as to the class of rich people doing no work, we all know that
they consume a great deal while they produce nothing.  Therefore,
clearly, they have to be kept at the expense of those who do work, just
as paupers have, and are a mere burden on the community.  In these days
there are many who have learned to see this, though they can see no
further into the evils of our present system, and have formed no idea of
any scheme for getting rid of this burden; though perhaps they have a
vague hope that changes in the system of voting for members of the House
of Commons may, as if by magic, tend in that direction.  With such hopes
or superstitions we need not trouble ourselves.  Moreover, this class,
the aristocracy, once thought most necessary to the State, is scant of
numbers, and has now no power of its own, but depends on the support of
the class next below it—the middle class.  In fact, it is really composed
either of the most successful men of that class, or of their immediate

As to the middle class, including the trading, manufacturing, and
professional people of our society, they do, as a rule, seem to work
quite hard enough, and so at first sight might be thought to help the
community, and not burden it.  But by far the greater part of them,
though they work, do not produce, and even when they do produce, as in
the case of those engaged (wastefully indeed) in the distribution of
goods, or doctors, or (genuine) artists and literary men, they consume
out of all proportion to their due share.  The commercial and
manufacturing part of them, the most powerful part, spend their lives and
energies in fighting amongst themselves for their respective shares of
the wealth which they _force_ the genuine workers to provide for them;
the others are almost wholly the hangers-on of these; they do not work
for the public, but a privileged class: they are the parasites of
property, sometimes, as in the case of lawyers, undisguisedly so;
sometimes, as the doctors and others above mentioned, professing to be
useful, but too often of no use save as supporters of the system of
folly, fraud, and tyranny of which they form a part.  And all these we
must remember have, as a rule, one aim in view; not the production of
utilities, but the gaining of a position either for themselves or their
children in which they will not have to work at all.  It is their
ambition and the end of their whole lives to gain, if not for themselves
yet at least for their children, the proud position of being obvious
burdens on the community.  For their work itself in spite of the sham
dignity with which they surround it, they care nothing: save a few
enthusiasts, men of science, art or letters, who, if they are not the
salt of the earth, are at least (and oh, the pity of it!) the salt of the
miserable system of which they are the slaves, which hinders and thwarts
them at every turn, and even sometimes corrupts them.

Here then is another class, this time very numerous and all-powerful,
which produces very little and consumes enormously, and is therefore in
the main supported, as paupers are, by the real producers.  The class
that remains to be considered produces all that is produced, and supports
both itself and the other classes, though it is placed in a position of
inferiority to them; real inferiority, mind you, involving a degradation
both of mind and body.  But it is a necessary consequence of this tyranny
and folly that again many of these workers are not producers.  A vast
number of them once more are merely parasites of property, some of them
openly so, as the soldiers by land and sea who are kept on foot for the
perpetuating of national rivalries and enmities, and for the purposes of
the national struggle for the share of the product of unpaid labour.  But
besides this obvious burden on the producers and the scarcely less
obvious one of domestic servants, there is first the army of clerks,
shop-assistants, and so forth, who are engaged in the service of the
private war for wealth, which, as above said, is the real occupation of
the well-to-do middle class.  This is a larger body of workers than might
be supposed, for it includes amongst others all those engaged in what I
should call competitive salesmanship, or, to use a less dignified word,
the puffery of wares, which has now got to such a pitch that there are
many things which cost far more to sell than they do to make.

Next there is the mass of people employed in making all those articles of
folly and luxury, the demand for which is the outcome of the existence of
the rich non-producing classes; things which people leading a manly and
uncorrupted life would not ask for or dream of.  These things, whoever
may gainsay me, I will for ever refuse to call wealth: they are not
wealth, but waste.  Wealth is what Nature gives us and what a reasonable
man can make out of the gifts of Nature for his reasonable use.  The
sunlight, the fresh air, the unspoiled face of the earth, food, raiment
and housing necessary and decent; the storing up of knowledge of all
kinds, and the power of disseminating it; means of free communication
between man and man; works of art, the beauty which man creates when he
is most a man, most aspiring and thoughtful—all things which serve the
pleasure of people, free, manly and uncorrupted.  This is wealth.  Nor
can I think of anything worth having which does not come under one or
other of these heads.  But think, I beseech you, of the product of
England, the workshop of the world, and will you not be bewildered, as I
am, at the thought of the mass of things which no sane man could desire,
but which our useless toil makes—and sells?

Now, further, there is even a sadder industry yet, which is forced on
many, very many, of our workers—the making of wares which are necessary
to them and their brethren, _because they are an inferior class_.  For if
many men live without producing, nay, must live lives so empty and
foolish that they _force_ a great part of the workers to produce wares
which no one needs, not even the rich, it follows that most men must be
poor; and, living as they do on wages from those whom they support,
cannot get for their use the _goods_ which men naturally desire, but must
put up with miserable makeshifts for them, with coarse food that does not
nourish, with rotten raiment which does not shelter, with wretched houses
which may well make a town-dweller in civilization look back with regret
to the tent of the nomad tribe, or the cave of the pre-historic savage.
Nay, the workers must even lend a hand to the great industrial invention
of the age—adulteration, and by its help produce for their own use shams
and mockeries of the luxury of the rich; for the wage-earners must always
live as the wage-payers bid them, and their very habits of life are
_forced_ on them by their masters.

But it is waste of time to try to express in words due contempt of the
productions of the much-praised cheapness of our epoch.  It must be
enough to say that this cheapness is necessary to the system of
exploiting on which modern manufacture rests.  In other words, our
society includes a great mass of slaves, who must be fed, clothed, housed
and amused as slaves, and that their daily necessity compels them to make
the slave-wares whose use is the perpetuation of their slavery.

To sum up, then, concerning the manner of work in civilized States, these
States are composed of three classes—a class which does not even pretend
to work, a class which pretends to work but which produces nothing, and a
class which works, but is compelled by the other two classes to do work
which is often unproductive.

Civilization therefore wastes its own resources, and will do so as long
as the present system lasts.  These are cold words with which to describe
the tyranny under which we suffer; try then to consider what they mean.

There is a certain amount of natural material and of natural forces in
the world, and a certain amount of labour-power inherent in the persons
of the men that inhabit it.  Men urged by their necessities and desires
have laboured for many thousands of years at the task of subjugating the
forces of Nature and of making the natural material useful to them.  To
our eyes, since we cannot see into the future, that struggle with Nature
seems nearly over, and the victory of the human race over her nearly
complete.  And, looking backwards to the time when history first began,
we note that the progress of that victory has been far swifter and more
startling within the last two hundred years than ever before.  Surely,
therefore, we moderns ought to be in all ways vastly better off than any
who have gone before us.  Surely we ought, one and all of us, to be
wealthy, to be well furnished with the good things which our victory over
Nature has won for us.

But what is the real fact?  Who will dare to deny that the great mass of
civilized men are poor?  So poor are they that it is mere childishness
troubling ourselves to discuss whether perhaps they are in some ways a
little better off than their forefathers.  They are poor; nor can their
poverty be measured by the poverty of a resourceless savage, for he knows
of nothing else than his poverty; that he should be cold, hungry,
houseless, dirty, ignorant, all that is to him as natural as that he
should have a skin.  But for us, for the most of us, civilization has
bred desires which she forbids us to satisfy, and so is not merely a
niggard but a torturer also.

Thus then have the fruits of our victory over Nature been stolen from us,
thus has compulsion by Nature to labour in hope of rest, gain, and
pleasure been turned into compulsion by man to labour in hope—of living
to labour!

What shall we do then, can we mend it?

Well, remember once more that it is not our remote ancestors who achieved
the victory over Nature, but our fathers, nay, our very selves.  For us
to sit hopeless and helpless then would be a strange folly indeed: be
sure that we can amend it.  What, then, is the first thing to be done?

We have seen that modern society is divided into two classes, one of
which is _privileged_ to be kept by the labour of the other—that is, it
forces the other to work for it and takes from this inferior class
everything that it _can_ take from it, and uses the wealth so taken to
keep its own members in a superior position, to make them beings of a
higher order than the others: longer lived, more beautiful, more
honoured, more refined than those of the other class.  I do not say that
it troubles itself about its members being positively long lived,
beautiful or refined, but merely insists that they shall be so relatively
to the inferior class.  As also it cannot use the labour-power of the
inferior class fairly in producing real wealth, it wastes it wholesale in
the production of rubbish.

It is this robbery and waste on the part of the minority which keeps the
majority poor; if it could be shown that it is necessary for the
preservation of society that this should be submitted to, little more
could be said on the matter, save that the despair of the oppressed
majority would probably at some time or other destroy Society.  But it
has been shown, on the contrary, even by such incomplete experiments, for
instance, as Co-operation (so called), that the existence of a privileged
class is by no means necessary for the production of wealth, but rather
for the “government” of the producers of wealth, or, in other words, for
the upholding of privilege.

The first step to be taken then is to abolish a class of men privileged
to shirk their duties as men, thus forcing others to do the work which
they refuse to do.  All must work according to their ability, and so
produce what they consume—that is, each man should work as well as he can
for his own livelihood, and his livelihood should be assured to him; that
is to say, all the advantages which society would provide for each and
all of its members.

Thus, at last, would true Society be founded.  It would rest on equality
of condition.  No man would be tormented for the benefit of another—nay,
no one man would be tormented for the benefit of Society.  Nor, indeed,
can that order be called Society which is not upheld for the benefit of
every one of its members.

But since men live now, badly as they live, when so many people do not
produce at all, and when so much work is wasted, it is clear that, under
conditions where all produced and no work was wasted, not only would
every one work with the certain hope of gaining a due share of wealth by
his work, but also he could not miss his due share of rest.  Here, then,
are two out of the three kinds of hope mentioned above as an essential
part of worthy work assured to the worker.  When class robbery is
abolished, every man will reap the fruits of his labour, every man will
have due rest—leisure, that is.  Some Socialists might say we need not go
any further than this; it is enough that the worker should get the full
produce of his work, and that his rest should be abundant.  But though
the compulsion of man’s tyranny is thus abolished, I yet demand
compensation for the compulsion of Nature’s necessity.  As long as the
work is repulsive it will still be a burden which must be taken up daily,
and even so would mar our life, even though the hours of labour were
short.  What we want to do is to add to our wealth without diminishing
our pleasure.  Nature will not be finally conquered till our work becomes
a part of the pleasure of our lives.

That first step of freeing people from the compulsion to labour
needlessly will at least put us on the way towards this happy end; for we
shall then have time and opportunities for bringing it about.  As things
are now, between the waste of labour-power in mere idleness and its waste
in unproductive work, it is clear that the world of civilization is
supported by a small part of its people; when all were working usefully
for its support, the share of work which each would have to do would be
but small, if our standard of life were about on the footing of what
well-to-do and refined people now think desirable.  We shall have
labour-power to spare, and shall, in short, be as wealthy as we please.
It will be easy to live.  If we were to wake up some morning now, under
our present system, and find it “easy to live,” that system would force
us to set to work at once and make it hard to live; we should call that
“developing our resources,” or some such fine name.  The multiplication
of labour has become a necessity for us, and as long as that goes on no
ingenuity in the invention of machines will be of any real use to us.
Each new machine will cause a certain amount of misery among the workers
whose special industry it may disturb; so many of them will be reduced
from skilled to unskilled workmen, and then gradually matters will slip
into their due grooves, and all will work apparently smoothly again; and
if it were not that all this is preparing revolution, things would be,
for the greater part of men, just as they were before the new wonderful

But when revolution has made it “easy to live,” when all are working
harmoniously together and there is no one to rob the worker of his time,
that is to say, his life; in those coming days there will be no
compulsion on us to go on producing things we do not want, no compulsion
on us to labour for nothing; we shall be able calmly and thoughtfully to
consider what we shall do with our wealth of labour-power.  Now, for my
part, I think the first use we ought to make of that wealth, of that
freedom, should be to make all our labour, even the commonest and most
necessary, pleasant to everybody; for thinking over the matter carefully
I can see that the one course which will certainly make life happy in the
face of all accidents and troubles is to take a pleasurable interest in
all the details of life.  And lest perchance you think that an assertion
too universally accepted to be worth making, let me remind you how
entirely modern civilization forbids it; with what sordid, and even
terrible, details it surrounds the life of the poor, what a mechanical
and empty life she forces on the rich; and how rare a holiday it is for
any of us to feel ourselves a part of Nature, and unhurriedly,
thoughtfully, and happily to note the course of our lives amidst all the
little links of events which connect them with the lives of others, and
build up the great whole of humanity.

But such a holiday our whole lives might be, if we were resolute to make
all our labour reasonable and pleasant.  But we must be resolute indeed;
for no half measures will help us here.  It has been said already that
our present joyless labour, and our lives scared and anxious as the life
of a hunted beast, are forced upon us by the present system of producing
for the profit of the privileged classes.  It is necessary to state what
this means.  Under the present system of wages and capital the
“manufacturer” (most absurdly so called, since a manufacturer means a
person who makes with his hands) having a monopoly of the means whereby
the power to labour inherent in every man’s body can be used for
production, is the master of those who are not so privileged; he, and he
alone, is able to make use of this labour-power, which, on the other
hand, is the only commodity by means of which his “capital,” that is to
say, the accumulated product of past labour, can be made productive to
him.  He therefore buys the labour-power of those who are bare of capital
and can only live by selling it to him; his purpose in this transaction
is to increase his capital, to make it breed.  It is clear that if he
paid those with whom he makes his bargain the full value of their labour,
that is to say, all that they produced, he would fail in his purpose.
But since he is the monopolist of the means of productive labour, he can
_compel_ them to make a bargain better for him and worse for them than
that; which bargain is that after they have earned their livelihood,
estimated according to a standard high enough to ensure their peaceable
submission to his mastership, the rest (and by far the larger part as a
matter of fact) of what they produce shall belong to him, shall be his
_property_ to do as he likes with, to use or abuse at his pleasure; which
property is, as we all know, jealously guarded by army and navy, police
and prison; in short, by that huge mass of physical force which
superstition, habit, fear of death by starvation—IGNORANCE, in one word,
among the propertyless masses enables the propertied classes to use for
the subjection of—their slaves.

Now, at other times, other evils resulting from this system may be put
forward.  What I want to point out now is the impossibility of our
attaining to attractive labour under this system, and to repeat that it
is this robbery (there is no other word for it) which wastes the
available labour-power of the civilized world, forcing many men to do
nothing, and many, very many more to do nothing useful; and forcing those
who carry on really useful labour to most burdensome over-work.  For
understand once for all that the “manufacturer” aims primarily at
producing, by means of the labour he has stolen from others, not goods
but profits, that is, the “wealth” that is produced over and above the
livelihood of his workmen, and the wear and tear of his machinery.
Whether that “wealth” is real or sham matters nothing to him.  If it
sells and yields him a “profit” it is all right.  I have said that, owing
to there being rich people who have more money than they can spend
reasonably, and who therefore buy sham wealth, there is waste on that
side; and also that, owing to there being poor people who cannot afford
to buy things which are worth making, there is waste on that side.  So
that the “demand” which the capitalist “supplies” is a false demand.  The
market in which he sells is “rigged” by the miserable inequalities
produced by the robbery of the system of Capital and Wages.

It is this system, therefore, which we must be resolute in getting rid
of, if we are to attain to happy and useful work for all.  The first step
towards making labour attractive is to get the means of making labour
fruitful, the Capital, including the land, machinery, factories, &c.,
into the hands of the community, to be used for the good of all alike, so
that we might all work at “supplying” the real “demands” of each and
all—that is to say, work for livelihood, instead of working to supply the
demand of the profit market—instead of working for profit—i.e., the power
of compelling other men to work against their will.

When this first step has been taken and men begin to understand that
Nature wills all men either to work or starve, and when they are no
longer such fools as to allow some the alternative of stealing, when this
happy day is come, we shall then be relieved from the tax of waste, and
consequently shall find that we have, as aforesaid, a mass of
labour-power available, which will enable us to live as we please within
reasonable limits.  We shall no longer be hurried and driven by the fear
of starvation, which at present presses no less on the greater part of
men in civilized communities than it does on mere savages.  The first and
most obvious necessities will be so easily provided for in a community in
which there is no waste of labour, that we shall have time to look round
and consider what we really do want, that can be obtained without
over-taxing our energies; for the often-expressed fear of mere idleness
falling upon us when the force supplied by the present hierarchy of
compulsion is withdrawn, is a fear which is but generated by the burden
of excessive and repulsive labour, which we most of us have to bear at

I say once more that, in my belief, the first thing which we shall think
so necessary as to be worth sacrificing some idle time for, will be the
attractiveness of labour.  No very heavy sacrifice will be required for
attaining this object, but some _will_ be required.  For we may hope that
men who have just waded through a period of strife and revolution will be
the last to put up long with a life of mere utilitarianism, though
Socialists are sometimes accused by ignorant persons of aiming at such a
life.  On the other hand, the ornamental part of modern life is already
rotten to the core, and must be utterly swept away before the new order
of things is realized.  There is nothing of it—there is nothing which
could come of it that could satisfy the aspirations of men set free from
the tyranny of commercialism.

We must begin to build up the ornamental part of life—its pleasures,
bodily and mental, scientific and artistic, social and individual—on the
basis of work undertaken willingly and cheerfully, with the consciousness
of benefiting ourselves and our neighbours by it.  Such absolutely
necessary work as we should have to do would in the first place take up
but a small part of each day, and so far would not be burdensome; but it
would be a task of daily recurrence, and therefore would spoil our day’s
pleasure unless it were made at least endurable while it lasted.  In
other words, all labour, even the commonest, must be made attractive.

How can this be done?—is the question the answer to which will take up
the rest of this paper.  In giving some hints on this question, I know
that, while all Socialists will agree with many of the suggestions made,
some of them may seem to some strange and venturesome.  These must be
considered as being given without any intention of dogmatizing, and as
merely expressing my own personal opinion.

From all that has been said already it follows that labour, to be
attractive, must be directed towards some obviously useful end, unless in
cases where it is undertaken voluntarily by each individual as a pastime.
This element of obvious usefulness is all the more to be counted on in
sweetening tasks otherwise irksome, since social morality, the
responsibility of man towards the life of man, will, in the new order of
things, take the place of theological morality, or the responsibility of
man to some abstract idea.  Next, the day’s work will be short.  This
need not be insisted on.  It is clear that with work unwasted it _can_ be
short.  It is clear also that much work which is now a torment, would be
easily endurable if it were much shortened.

Variety of work is the next point, and a most important one.  To compel a
man to do day after day the same task, without any hope of escape or
change, means nothing short of turning his life into a prison-torment.
Nothing but the tyranny of profit-grinding makes this necessary.  A man
might easily learn and practise at least three crafts, varying sedentary
occupation with outdoor—occupation calling for the exercise of strong
bodily energy for work in which the mind had more to do.  There are few
men, for instance, who would not wish to spend part of their lives in the
most necessary and pleasantest of all work—cultivating the earth.  One
thing which will make this variety of employment possible will be the
form that education will take in a socially ordered community.  At
present all education is directed towards the end of fitting people to
take their places in the hierarchy of commerce—these as masters, those as
workmen.  The education of the masters is more ornamental than that of
the workmen, but it is commercial still; and even at the ancient
universities learning is but little regarded, unless it can in the long
run be made _to pay_.  Due education is a totally different thing from
this, and concerns itself in finding out what different people are fit
for, and helping them along the road which they are inclined to take.  In
a duly ordered society, therefore, young people would be taught such
handicrafts as they had a turn for as a part of their education, the
discipline of their minds and bodies; and adults would also have
opportunities of learning in the same schools, for the development of
individual capacities would be of all things chiefly aimed at by
education, instead, as now, the subordination of all capacities to the
great end of “money-making” for oneself—or one’s master.  The amount of
talent, and even genius, which the present system crushes, and which
would be drawn out by such a system, would make our daily work easy and

Under this head of variety I will note one product of industry which has
suffered so much from commercialism that it can scarcely be said to
exist, and is, indeed, so foreign from our epoch that I fear there are
some who will find it difficult to understand what I have to say on the
subject, which I nevertheless must say, since it is really a most
important one.  I mean that side of art which is, or ought to be, done by
the ordinary workman while he is about his ordinary work, and which has
got to be called, very properly, Popular Art.  This art, I repeat, no
longer exists now, having been killed by commercialism.  But from the
beginning of man’s contest with Nature till the rise of the present
capitalistic system, it was alive, and generally flourished.  While it
lasted, everything that was made by man was adorned by man, just as
everything made by Nature is adorned by her.  The craftsman, as he
fashioned the thing he had under his hand, ornamented it so naturally and
so entirely without conscious effort, that it is often difficult to
distinguish where the mere utilitarian part of his work ended and the
ornamental began.  Now the origin of this art was the necessity that the
workman felt for variety in his work, and though the beauty produced by
this desire was a great gift to the world, yet the obtaining variety and
pleasure in the work by the workman was a matter of more importance
still, for it stamped all labour with the impress of pleasure.  All this
has now quite disappeared from the work of civilization.  If you wish to
have ornament, you must pay specially for it, and the workman is
compelled to produce ornament, as he is to produce other wares.  He is
compelled to pretend happiness in his work, so that the beauty produced
by man’s hand, which was once a solace to his labour, has now become an
extra burden to him, and ornament is now but one of the follies of
useless toil, and perhaps not the least irksome of its fetters.

Besides the short duration of labour, its conscious usefulness, and the
variety which should go with it, there is another thing needed to make it
attractive, and that is pleasant surroundings.  The misery and squalor
which we people of civilization bear with so much complacency as a
necessary part of the manufacturing system, is just as necessary to the
community at large as a proportionate amount of filth would be in the
house of a private rich man.  If such a man were to allow the cinders to
be raked all over his drawing-room, and a privy to be established in each
corner of his dining-room, if he habitually made a dust and refuse heap
of his once beautiful garden, never washed his sheets or changed his
tablecloth, and made his family sleep five in a bed, he would surely find
himself in the claws of a commission _de lunatico_.  But such acts of
miserly folly are just what our present society is doing daily under the
compulsion of a supposed necessity, which is nothing short of madness.  I
beg you to bring your commission of lunacy against civilization without
more delay.

For all our crowded towns and bewildering factories are simply the
outcome of the profit system.  Capitalistic manufacture, capitalistic
land-owning, and capitalistic exchange force men into big cities in order
to manipulate them in the interests of capital; the same tyranny
contracts the due space of the factory so much that (for instance) the
interior of a great weaving-shed is almost as ridiculous a spectacle as
it is a horrible one.  There is no other necessity for all this, save the
necessity for grinding profits out of men’s lives, and of producing cheap
goods for the use (and subjection) of the slaves who grind.  All labour
is not yet driven into factories; often where it is there is no necessity
for it, save again the profit-tyranny.  People engaged in all such labour
need by no means be compelled to pig together in close city quarters.
There is no reason why they should not follow their occupations in quiet
country homes, in industrial colleges, in small towns, or, in short,
where they find it happiest for them to live.

As to that part of labour which must be associated on a large scale, this
very factory system, under a reasonable order of things (though to my
mind there might still be drawbacks to it), would at least offer
opportunities for a full and eager social life surrounded by many
pleasures.  The factories might be centres of intellectual activity also,
and work in them might well be varied very much: the tending of the
necessary machinery might to each individual be but a short part of the
day’s work.  The other work might vary from raising food from the
surrounding country to the study and practice of art and science.  It is
a matter of course that people engaged in such work, and being the
masters of their own lives, would not allow any hurry or want of
foresight to force them into enduring dirt, disorder, or want of room.
Science duly applied would enable them to get rid of refuse, to minimize,
if not wholly to destroy, all the inconveniences which at present attend
the use of elaborate machinery, such as smoke, stench and noise; nor
would they endure that the buildings in which they worked or lived should
be ugly blots on the fair face of the earth.  Beginning by making their
factories, buildings, and sheds decent and convenient like their homes,
they would infallibly go on to make them not merely negatively good,
inoffensive merely, but even beautiful, so that the glorious art of
architecture, now for some time slain by commercial greed, would be born
again and flourish.

So, you see, I claim that work in a duly ordered community should be made
attractive by the consciousness of usefulness, by its being carried on
with intelligent interest, by variety, and by its being exercised amidst
pleasurable surroundings.  But I have also claimed, as we all do, that
the day’s work should not be wearisomely long.  It may be said, “How can
you make this last claim square with the others?  If the work is to be so
refined, will not the goods made be very expensive?”

I do admit, as I have said before, that some sacrifice will be necessary
in order to make labour attractive.  I mean that, if we _could_ be
contented in a free community to work in the same hurried, dirty,
disorderly, heartless way as we do now, we might shorten our day’s labour
very much more than I suppose we shall do, taking all kinds of labour
into account.  But if we did, it would mean that our new-won freedom of
condition would leave us listless and wretched, if not anxious, as we are
now, which I hold is simply impossible.  We should be contented to make
the sacrifices necessary for raising our condition to the standard called
out for as desirable by the whole community.  Nor only so.  We should,
individually, be emulous to sacrifice quite freely still more of our time
and our ease towards the raising of the standard of life.  Persons,
either by themselves or associated for such purposes, would freely, and
for the love of the work and for its results—stimulated by the hope of
the pleasure of creation—produce those ornaments of life for the service
of all, which they are now bribed to produce (or pretend to produce) for
the service of a few rich men.  The experiment of a civilized community
living wholly without art or literature has not yet been tried.  The past
degradation and corruption of civilization may force this denial of
pleasure upon the society which will arise from its ashes.  If that must
be, we will accept the passing phase of utilitarianism as a foundation
for the art which is to be.  If the cripple and the starveling disappear
from our streets, if the earth nourish us all alike, if the sun shine for
all of us alike, if to one and all of us the glorious drama of the
earth—day and night, summer and winter—can be presented as a thing to
understand and love, we can afford to wait awhile till we are purified
from the shame of the past corruption, and till art arises again amongst
people freed from the terror of the slave and the shame of the robber.

Meantime, in any case, the refinement, thoughtfulness, and deliberation
of labour must indeed be paid for, but not by compulsion to labour long
hours.  Our epoch has invented machines which would have appeared wild
dreams to the men of past ages, and of those machines we have as yet
_made no use_.

They are called “labour-saving” machines—a commonly used phrase which
implies what we expect of them; but we do not get what we expect.  What
they really do is to reduce the skilled labourer to the ranks of the
unskilled, to increase the number of the “reserve army of labour”—that
is, to increase the precariousness of life among the workers and to
intensify the labour of those who serve the machines (as slaves their
masters).  All this they do by the way, while they pile up the profits of
the employers of labour, or force them to expend those profits in bitter
commercial war with each other.  In a true society these miracles of
ingenuity would be for the first time used for minimizing the amount of
time spent in unattractive labour, which by their means might be so
reduced as to be but a very light burden on each individual.  All the
more as these machines would most certainly be very much improved when it
was no longer a question as to whether their improvement would “pay” the
individual, but rather whether it would benefit the community.

So much for the ordinary use of machinery, which would probably, after a
time, be somewhat restricted when men found out that there was no need
for anxiety as to mere subsistence, and learned to take an interest and
pleasure in handiwork which, done deliberately and thoughtfully, could be
made more attractive than machine work.

Again, as people freed from the daily terror of starvation find out what
they really wanted, being no longer compelled by anything but their own
needs, they would refuse to produce the mere inanities which are now
called luxuries, or the poison and trash now called cheap wares.  No one
would make plush breeches when there were no flunkies to wear them, nor
would anybody waste his time over making oleomargarine when no one was
_compelled_ to abstain from real butter.  Adulteration laws are only
needed in a society of thieves—and in such a society they are a dead

Socialists are often asked how work of the rougher and more repulsive
kind could be carried out in the new condition of things.  To attempt to
answer such questions fully or authoritatively would be attempting the
impossibility of constructing a scheme of a new society out of the
materials of the old, before we knew which of those materials would
disappear and which endure through the evolution which is leading us to
the great change.  Yet it is not difficult to conceive of some
arrangement whereby those who did the roughest work should work for the
shortest spells.  And again, what is said above of the variety of work
applies specially here.  Once more I say, that for a man to be the whole
of his life hopelessly engaged in performing one repulsive and
never-ending task, is an arrangement fit enough for the hell imagined by
theologians, but scarcely fit for any other form of society.  Lastly, if
this rougher work were of any special kind, we may suppose that special
volunteers would be called on to perform it, who would surely be
forthcoming, unless men in a state of freedom should lose the sparks of
manliness which they possessed as slaves.

And yet if there be any work which cannot be made other than repulsive,
either by the shortness of its duration or the intermittency of its
recurrence, or by the sense of special and peculiar usefulness (and
therefore honour) in the mind of the man who performs it freely,—if there
be any work which cannot be but a torment to the worker, what then?
Well, then, let us see if the heavens will fall on us if we leave it
undone, for it were better that they should.  The produce of such work
cannot be worth the price of it.

Now we have seen that the semi-theological dogma that all labour, under
any circumstances, is a blessing to the labourer, is hypocritical and
false; that, on the other hand, labour is good when due hope of rest and
pleasure accompanies it.  We have weighed the work of civilization in the
balance and found it wanting, since hope is mostly lacking to it, and
therefore we see that civilization has bred a dire curse for men.  But we
have seen also that the work of the world might be carried on in hope and
with pleasure if it were not wasted by folly and tyranny, by the
perpetual strife of opposing classes.

                                * * * * *

It is Peace, therefore, which we need in order that we may live and work
in hope and with pleasure.  Peace so much desired, if we may trust men’s
words, but which has been so continually and steadily rejected by them in
deeds.  But for us, let us set our hearts on it and win it at whatever

What the cost may be, who can tell?  Will it be possible to win peace
peaceably?  Alas, how can it be?  We are so hemmed in by wrong and folly,
that in one way or other we must always be fighting against them: our own
lives may see no end to the struggle, perhaps no obvious hope of the end.
It may be that the best we can hope to see is that struggle getting
sharper and bitterer day by day, until it breaks out openly at last into
the slaughter of men by actual warfare instead of by the slower and
crueller methods of “peaceful” commerce.  If we live to see that, we
shall live to see much; for it will mean the rich classes grown conscious
of their own wrong and robbery, and consciously defending them by open
violence; and then the end will be drawing near.

But in any case, and whatever the nature of our strife for peace may be,
if we only aim at it steadily and with singleness of heart, and ever keep
it in view, a reflection from that peace of the future will illumine the
turmoil and trouble of our lives, whether the trouble be seemingly petty,
or obviously tragic; and we shall, in our hopes at least, live the lives
of men: nor can the present times give us any reward greater than that.


PERHAPS some of my readers may think that the above title is not a
correct one: it may be said, a new epoch is always dawning, change is
always going on, and it goes on so gradually that we do not know when we
are out of an old epoch and into a new one.  There is truth in that, at
least to this extent, that no age can see itself: we must stand some way
off before the confused picture with its rugged surface can resolve
itself into its due order, and seem to be something with a definite
purpose carried through all its details.  Nevertheless, when we look back
on history we do distinguish periods in the lapse of time that are not
merely arbitrary ones, we note the early growth of the ideas which are to
form the new order of things, we note their development into the
transitional period, and finally the new epoch is revealed to us bearing
in its full development, unseen as yet, the seeds of the newer order
still which shall transform it in its turn into something else.

Moreover, there are periods in which even those alive in them become more
or less conscious of the change which is always going on; the old ideas
which were once so exciting to men’s imaginations, now cease to move
them, though they may be accepted as dull and necessary platitudes: the
material circumstances of man’s life which were once only struggled with
in detail, and only according to a kind of law made manifest in their
working, are in such times conscious of change, and are only accepted
under protest until some means can be found to alter them.  The old and
dying order, once silent and all-powerful, tries to express itself
violently, and becomes at once noisy and weak.  The nascent order once
too weak to be conscious of need of expression, or capable of it if it
were, becomes conscious now and finds a voice.  The silent sap of the
years is being laid aside for open assault; the men are gathering under
arms in the trenches, and the forlorn hope is ready, no longer trifling
with little solacements of the time of weary waiting, but looking forward
to mere death or the joy of victory.

Now I think, and some who read this will agree with me, that we are now
living in one of these times of conscious change; we not only are, but we
also feel ourselves to be living between the old and the new; we are
expecting something to happen, as the phrase goes: at such times it
behoves us to understand what is the old which is dying, what is the new
which is coming into existence?  That is a question practically important
to us all, since these periods of conscious change are also, in one way
or other, times of serious combat, and each of us, if he does not look to
it and learn to understand what is going on, may find himself fighting on
the wrong side, the side with which he really does not sympathize.

What is the combat we are now entering upon—who is it to be fought
between?  Absolutism and Democracy, perhaps some will answer.  Not quite,
I think; that contest was practically settled by the great French
Revolution; it is only its embers which are burning now: or at least that
is so in the countries which are not belated like Russia, for instance.
Democracy, or at least what used to be considered Democracy, is now
triumphant; and though it is true that there are countries where freedom
of speech is repressed besides Russia, as _e.g._, Germany and Ireland,
{176} that only happens when the rulers of the triumphant Democracy are
beginning to be afraid of the new order of things, now becoming conscious
of itself, and are being driven into reaction in consequence.  No, it is
not Absolutism and Democracy as the French Revolution understood those
two words that are the enemies now: the issue is deeper than it was; the
two foes are now Mastership and Fellowship.  This is a far more serious
quarrel than the old one, and involves a much completer revolution.  The
grounds of conflict are really quite different.  Democracy said and says,
men shall not be the masters of others, because hereditary privilege has
made a race or a family so, and they happen to belong to such race; they
shall individually grow into being the masters of others by the
development of certain qualities under a system of authority which
_artificially_ protects the wealth of every man, if he has acquired it in
accordance with this artificial system, from the interference of every
other, or from all others combined.

The new order of things says, on the contrary, why have masters at all?
let us be _fellows_ working in the harmony of association for the common
good, that is, for the greatest happiness and completest development of
every human being in the community.

This ideal and hope of a new society founded on industrial peace and
forethought, bearing with it its own ethics, aiming at a new and higher
life for all men, has received the general name of Socialism, and it is
my firm belief that it is destined to supersede the old order of things
founded on industrial war, and to be the next step in the progress of

Now, since I must explain further what are the aims of Socialism, the
ideal of the new epoch, I find that I must begin by explaining to you
what is the constitution of the old order which it is destined to
supplant.  If I can make that clear to you, I shall have also made clear
to you the first aim of Socialism: for I have said that the present and
decaying order of things, like those which have gone before it, has to be
propped up by a system of artificial authority; when that artificial
authority has been swept away, harmonious association will be felt by all
men to be a necessity of their happy and undegraded existence on the
earth, and Socialism will become the condition under which we shall all
live, and it will develop naturally, and probably with no violent
conflict, whatever detailed system may be necessary: I say the struggle
will not be over these details, which will surely vary according to the
difference of unchangeable natural surroundings, but over the question,
shall it be mastership or fellowship?

Let us see then what is the condition of society under the last
development of mastership, the commercial system, which has taken the
place of the Feudal system.

Like all other systems of society, it is founded on the necessity of man
conquering his subsistence from Nature by labour, and also, like most
other systems that we know of, it presupposes the unequal distribution of
labour among different classes of society, and the unequal distribution
of the results of that labour: it does not differ in that respect from
the system which it supplanted; it has only altered the method whereby
that unequal distribution should be arranged.  There are still rich
people and poor people amongst us, as there were in the Middle Ages; nay,
there is no doubt that, relatively at least to the sum of wealth
existing, the rich are richer and the poor are poorer now than they were
then.  However that may be, in any case now as then there are people who
have much work and little wealth living beside other people who have much
wealth and little work.  The richest are still the idlest, and those who
work hardest and perform the most painful tasks are the worst rewarded
for their labour.

To me, and I should hope to my readers, this seems grossly unfair; and I
may remind you here that the world has always had a sense of its
injustice.  For century after century, while society has strenuously
bolstered up this injustice forcibly and artificially, it has professed
belief in philosophies, codes of ethics, and religions which have
inculcated justice and fair dealing between men: nay, some of them have
gone so far as to bid us bear one another’s burdens, and have put before
men the duty, and in the long run the pleasure, of the strong working for
the weak, the wise for the foolish, the helpful for the helpless; and yet
these precepts of morality have been set aside in practice as
persistently as they have been preached in theory; and naturally so,
since they attack the very basis of class society.  I as a Socialist am
bound to preach them to you once more, assuring you that they are no mere
foolish dreams bidding us to do what we now must acknowledge to be
impossible, but reasonable rules of action, good for our defence against
the tyranny of Nature.  Anyhow, honest men have the choice before them of
either putting these theories in practice or rejecting them altogether.
If they will but face that dilemma, I think we shall soon have a new
world of it; yet I fear they will find it hard to do so: the theory is
old, and we have got used to it and its form of words: the practice is
new, and would involve responsibilities we have not yet thought much of.

Now the great difference between our present system and that of the
feudal period is that, as far as the conditions of life are concerned,
all distinction of classes is abolished except that between rich and
poor: society is thus simplified; the arbitrary distinction is gone, the
real one remains and is far more stringent than the arbitrary one was.
Once all society was rude, there was little real difference between the
gentleman and the non-gentleman, and you had to dress them differently
from one another in order to distinguish them.  But now a well-to-do man
is a refined and cultivated being, enjoying to the full his share of the
conquest over Nature which the modern world has achieved, while the poor
man is rude and degraded, and has no share in the wealth conquered by
modern science from Nature: he is certainly no better as to material
condition than the serf of the Middle Ages, perhaps he is worse: to my
mind he is at least worse than the savage living in a good climate.

I do not think that any thoughtful man seriously denies this: let us try
to see what brings it about; let us see it as clearly as we all see that
the hereditary privilege of the noble caste, and the consequent serf
slavery of the workers of the Middle Ages, brought about the peculiar
conditions of that period.

Society is now divided between two classes, those who monopolize all the
means of the production of wealth save one; and those who possess nothing
except that one, the Power of Labour.  That power of labour is useless to
its possessors, and cannot be exercised without the help of the other
means of production; but those who have nothing but labour-power—i.e.,
who have no means of making others work for them, must work for
themselves in order to live; and they must therefore apply to the owners
of the means of fructifying labour—i.e., the land, machinery, &c., for
leave to work that they may live.  The possessing class (as for short we
will call them) are quite prepared to grant this leave, and indeed they
must grant it if they are to use the labour-power of the non-possessing
class for their own advantage, which is their special privilege.  But
that privilege enables them to _compel_ the non-possessing class to sell
them their labour-power on terms which ensure the continuance of their
monopoly.  These terms are at the outset very simple.  The possessing
class, or masters, allow the men just so much of the wealth produced by
their labour as will give them such a livelihood as is considered
necessary at the time, and will permit them to breed and rear children to
a working age: that is the simple condition of the “bargain” which
obtains when the labour-power required is low in quality, what is called
unskilled labour, and when the workers are too weak or ignorant to
combine so as to threaten the masters with some form of rebellion.  When
skilled labour is wanted, and the labourer has consequently cost more to
produce, and is rarer to be found, the price of the article is higher: as
also when the commodity labour takes to thinking and remembers that after
all it is also men, and as aforesaid holds out threats to the masters; in
that case they for their part generally think it prudent to give way,
when the competition of the market allows them to do so, and so the
standard of livelihood for the workers rises.

But to speak plainly, the greater part of the workers, in spite of
strikes and Trades’ Unions, do get little more than a bare subsistence
wage, and when they grow sick or old they would die outright if it were
not for the refuge afforded them by the workhouse, which is purposely
made as prison-like and wretched as possible, in order to prevent the
lower-paid workers from taking refuge in it before the time of their
_industrial_ death.

Now comes the question as to how the masters are able to force the men to
sell their commodity labour-power so dirt-cheap without treating them as
the ancients treated their slaves—i.e., with the whip.  Well, of course
you understand that the master having paid his workmen what they can live
upon, and having paid for the wear and tear of machinery and other
expenses of that kind, has for his share whatever remains over and above,
_the whole of which he gets from the exercise of the labour-power
possessed by the worker_: he is anxious therefore to make the most of
this privilege, and competes with his fellow-manufacturers to the utmost
in the market: so that the distribution of wares is organized on a
gambling basis, and as a consequence many more hands are needed when
trade is brisk than when it is slack, or even in an ordinary condition:
under the stimulus also of the lust for acquiring this surplus value of
labour, the great machines of our epoch were invented and are yearly
improved, and they act on labour in a threefold way: first they get rid
of many hands; next they lower the quality of the labour required, so
that skilled work is wanted less and less; thirdly, the improvement in
them forces the workers to work harder while they are at work, as notably
in the cotton-spinning industry.  Also in most trades women and children
are employed, to whom it is not even pretended that a subsistence wage is
given.  Owing to all these causes, the reserve army of labour necessary
to our present system of manufactures for the gambling market, the
introduction of labour-saving machines (labour saved for the master, mind
you, not the man), and the intensifying of the labour while it lasts, the
employment of the auxiliary labour of women and children: owing to all
this there are in ordinary years even, not merely in specially bad years
like the current one, {184} more workers than there is work for them to
do.  The workers therefore undersell one another in disposing of their
one commodity, labour-power, and are forced to do so, or they would not
be allowed to work, and therefore would have to starve or go to the
prison called the workhouse.  This is why the masters at the present day
are able to dispense with the exercise of obvious violence which in
bygone times they used towards their slaves.

This then is the first distinction between the two great classes of
modern Society: the upper class possesses wealth, the lower lacks wealth;
but there is another distinction to which I will now draw your attention:
the class which lacks wealth is the class that produces it, the class
that possesses it does not produce it, it consumes it only.  If by any
chance the so-called lower class were to perish or leave the community,
production of wealth would come to a standstill, until the wealth-owners
had learned how to produce, until they had descended from their position,
and had taken the place of their former slaves.  If on the contrary, the
wealth-owners were to disappear, production of wealth would at the worst
be only hindered for awhile, and probably would go on pretty much as it
does now.

But you may say, though it is certain that some of the wealth-owners, as
landlords, holders of funds, and the like do nothing, yet there are many
of them who work hard.  Well, that is true, and perhaps nothing so
clearly shows the extreme folly of the present system than this fact that
there are so many able and industrious men employed by it, in working
hard at—nothing: nothing or worse.  They work, but they do not produce.

It is true that some useful occupations are in the hands of the
privileged classes, physic, education, and the fine arts, _e.g._  The men
who work at these occupations are certainly working usefully; and all
that we can say against them is that they are sometimes paid too high in
proportion to the pay of other useful persons, which high pay is given
them in recognition of their being the parasites of the possessing
classes.  But even as to numbers these are not a very large part of the
possessors of wealth, and, as to the wealth they hold, it is quite
insignificant compared with that held by those who do nothing useful.

Of these last, some, as we all agree, do not pretend to do anything
except amuse themselves, and probably these are the least harmful of the
useless classes.  Then there are others who follow occupations which
would have no place in a reasonable condition of society, as, e.g.,
lawyers, judges, jailers, and soldiers of the higher grades, and most
Government officials.  Finally comes the much greater group of those who
are engaged in gambling or fighting for their individual shares of the
tribute which their class compels the working-class to yield to it: these
are the group that one calls broadly business men, the conductors of our
commerce, if you please to call them so.

To extract a good proportion of this tribute, and to keep as much as
possible of it when extracted for oneself, is the main business of life
for these men, that is, for most well-to-do and rich people; it is
called, quite inaccurately, “money-making;” and those who are most
successful in this occupation are, in spite of all hypocritical pretences
to the contrary, the persons most respected by the public.

A word or two as to the tribute extracted from the workers as aforesaid.
It is no trifle, but amounts to at least two-thirds of all that the
worker produces; but you must understand that it is not all taken
directly from the workman by his immediate employer, but by the employing
class.  Besides the tribute or profit of the direct employer, which is in
all cases as much as he can get amidst his competition or war with other
employers, the worker has also to pay taxes in various forms, and the
greater part of the wealth so extorted is at the best merely wasted: and
remember, whoever _seems_ to pay the taxes, labour in the long run is the
only real taxpayer.  Then he has to pay house-rent, and very much heavier
rent in proportion to his earnings than well-to-do people have.  He has
also to pay the commission of the middle-men who distribute the goods
which he has made, in a way so wasteful that now all thinking people cry
out against it, though they are quite helpless against it in our present
society.  Finally, he has often to pay an extra tax in the shape of a
contribution to a benefit society or trades’ union, which is really a tax
on the precariousness of his employment caused by the gambling of his
masters in the market.  In short, besides the profit or the result of
unpaid labour which he yields to his immediate master he has to give back
a large part of his wages to the class of which his master is a part.

The privilege of the possessing class therefore consists in their living
on this tribute, they themselves either not working or working
unproductively—i.e., living on the labour of others; no otherwise than as
the master of ancient days lived on the labour of his slave, or as the
baron lived on the labour of his serf.  If the capital of the rich man
consists of land, he is able to force a tenant to improve his land for
him and pay him tribute in the form of rack-rent; and at the end of the
transaction has his land again, generally improved, so that he can begin
again and go on for ever, he and his heirs, doing nothing, a mere burden
on the community for ever, while others are working for him.  If he has
houses on his land he has rent for them also, often receiving the value
of the building many times over, and in the end house and land once more.
Not seldom a piece of barren ground or swamp, worth nothing in itself,
becomes a source of huge fortune to him from the development of a town or
a district, and he pockets the results of the labour of thousands upon
thousands of men, and calls it his property: or the earth beneath the
surface is found to be rich in coal or minerals, and again he must be
paid vast sums for allowing others to labour them into marketable wares,
to which labour he contributes nothing.

Or again, if his capital consists of cash, he goes into the labour market
and buys the labour-power of men, women and children, and uses it for the
production of wares which shall bring him in a profit, buying it of
course at the lowest price that he can, availing himself of their
necessities to keep their livelihood down to the lowest point which they
will bear: which indeed he _must_ do, or he himself will be overcome in
the war with his fellow-capitalists.  Neither in this case does he do any
useful work, and he need not do any semblance of it, since he may buy the
brain-power of managers at a somewhat higher rate than he buys the
hand-power of the ordinary workman.  But even when he does seem to be
doing something, and receives the pompous title of “organizer of labour,”
he is not really organizing _labour_, but the battle with his immediate
enemies, the other capitalists, who are in the same line of business with

Furthermore, though it is true, as I have said, that the working-class
are the only producers, yet only a part of them are allowed to produce
usefully; for the men of the non-producing classes having often much more
wealth than they can _use_ are forced to _waste_ it in mere luxuries and
follies, that on the one hand harm themselves, and on the other withdraw
a very large part of the workers from useful work, thereby compelling
those who do produce usefully to work the harder and more grievously: in
short, the essential accompaniment of the system is waste.

How could it be otherwise, since it is a system of war?  I have mentioned
incidentally that all the employers of labour are at war with each other,
and you will probably see that, according to my account of the relations
between the two great classes, they also are at war.  Each can only gain
at the others’ loss: the employing class is forced to make the most of
its privilege, the possession of the means for the exercise of labour,
and whatever it gets to itself can only be got at the expense of the
working-class; and that class in its turn can only raise its standard of
livelihood at the expense of the possessing class; it is _forced_ to
yield as little tribute to it as it can help; there is therefore constant
war always going on between these two classes, whether they are conscious
of it or not.

To recapitulate: In our modern society there are two classes, a useful
and a useless class; the useless class is called the upper, the useful
the lower class.  The useless or upper class, having the monopoly of all
the means of the production of wealth save the power of labour, can and
does compel the useful or lower class to work for its own disadvantage,
and for the advantage of the upper class; nor will the latter allow the
useful class to work on any other terms.  This arrangement necessarily
means an increasing contest, first of the classes one against the other,
and next of the individuals of each class among themselves.

Most thinking people admit the truth of what I have just stated, but many
of them believe that the system, though obviously unjust and wasteful, is
necessary (though perhaps they cannot give their reasons for their
belief), and so they can see nothing for it but palliating the worst
evils of the system: but, since the various palliatives in fashion at one
time or another have failed each in its turn, I call upon them, firstly,
to consider whether the system itself might not be changed, and secondly,
to look round and note the signs of approaching change.

Let us remember first that even savages live, though they have poor
tools, no machinery, and no co-operation, in their work: but as soon as a
man begins to use good tools and work with some kind of co-operation he
becomes able to produce more than enough for his own bare necessaries,
All industrial society is founded on that fact, even from the time when
workmen were mere chattel slaves.  What a strange society then is this of
ours, wherein while one set of people cannot use their wealth, they have
so much, but are obliged to waste it, another set are scarcely if at all
better than those hapless savages who have neither tools nor
co-operation!  Surely if this cannot be set right, civilized mankind must
write itself down a civilized fool.

Here is the workman now, thoroughly organized for production, working for
production with complete co-operation, and through marvellous machines;
surely if a slave in Aristotle’s time could do more than keep himself
alive, the present workman can do much more—as we all very well know that
he can.  Why therefore should he be otherwise than in a comfortable
condition?  Simply because of the class system, which with one hand
plunders, and with the other wastes the wealth won by the workman’s
labour.  If the workman had the full results of his labour he would in
all cases be comfortably off, if he were working in an unwasteful way.
But in order to work unwastefully he must work for his own livelihood,
and not to enable another man to live without producing: if he has to
sustain another man in idleness who is capable of working for himself, he
is treated unfairly; and, believe me, he will only do so as long he is
compelled to submit by ignorance and brute force.  Well, then, he has a
right to claim the wealth produced by his labour, and in consequence to
insist that all shall produce who are able to do so; but also undoubtedly
his labour must be organized, or he will soon find himself relapsing into
the condition of the savage.  But in order that his labour may be
organized properly he must have only one enemy to contend with—Nature to
wit, who as it were eggs him on to the conflict against herself, and is
grateful to him for overcoming her; a friend in the guise of an enemy.
There must be no contention of man with man, but _association_ instead;
so only can labour be really organized, harmoniously organized.  But
harmony cannot co-exist with contention for individual gain: men must
work for the common gain if the world is to be raised out of its present
misery; therefore that claim of the workman (that is of every able man)
must be subject to the fact that he is but a part of a harmonious whole:
he is worthless without the co-operation of his fellows, who help him
according to their capacities: he ought to feel, and will feel when he
has his right senses, that he is working for his own interest when he is
working for that of the community.

So working, his work must always be profitable, therefore no obstacle
must be thrown in the way of his work: the means whereby his labour-power
can be exercised must be free to him.  The privilege of the proprietary
class must come to an end.  Remember that at present the custom is that a
person so privileged is in the position of a man (with a policeman or so
to help) guarding the gate of a field which will supply livelihood to
whomsoever can work in it: crowds of people who don’t want to die come to
that gate; but there stands law and order, and says “pay me five
shillings before you go in;” and he or she that hasn’t the five shillings
has to stay outside, and die—or live in the workhouse.  Well, that must
be done away with; the field must be free to everybody that can use it.
To throw aside even this transparent metaphor, those means of the
fructification of labour, the land, machinery, capital, means of transit,
&c., which are now monopolized by those who cannot use them, but who
abuse them to force unpaid labour out of others, must be free to those
who can use them; that is to say, the workers properly organized for
production; but you must remember that this will wrong no man, because as
all will do some service to the community—i.e., as there will be no
non-producing class, the organized workers will be the whole community,
there will be no one left out.

Society will thus be recast, and labour will be free from all compulsion
except the compulsion of Nature, which gives us nothing for nothing.  It
would be futile to attempt to give you details of the way in which this
would be carried out; since the very essence of it is freedom and the
abolition of all arbitrary or artificial authority; but I will ask you to
understand one thing: you will no doubt want to know what is to become of
private property under such a system, which at first sight would not seem
to forbid the accumulation of wealth, and along with that accumulation
the formation of new classes of rich and poor.

Now private property as at present understood implies the holding of
wealth by an individual as against all others, whether the holder can use
it or not: he may, and not seldom he does, accumulate capital, or the
stored-up labour of past generations, and neither use it himself nor
allow others to use it: he may, and often he does, engross the first
necessity of labour, land, and neither use it himself or allow any one
else to use it; and though it is clear that in each case he is injuring
the community, the law is sternly on his side.  In any case a rich man
accumulates property, not for his own use, but in order that he may evade
with impunity the law of Nature which bids man labour for his livelihood,
and also that he may enable his children to do the same, that he and they
may belong to the upper or useless class: it is not wealth that he
accumulates, well-being, well-doing, bodily and mental; he soon comes to
the end of his real needs in that respect, even when they are most
exacting: it is power over others, what our forefathers called _riches_,
that he collects; power (as we have seen) to force other people to live
for his advantage poorer lives than they should live.  Understand that
that _must_ be the result of the possession of _riches_.

Now this power to compel others to live poorly Socialism would abolish
entirely, and in that sense would make an end of private property: nor
would it need to make laws to prevent accumulation artificially when once
people had found out that they could employ themselves, and that thereby
every man could enjoy the results of his own labour: for Socialism bases
the rights of the individual to possess wealth on his being able to use
that wealth for his own personal needs, and, labour being properly
organized, every person, male or female, not in nonage or otherwise
incapacitated from working, would have full opportunity to produce wealth
and thereby to satisfy his own personal needs; if those needs went in any
direction beyond those of an average man, he would have to make personal
sacrifices in order to satisfy them; he would have, for instance, to work
longer hours, or to forego some luxury that he did not care for in order
to obtain something which he very much desired: so doing he would at the
worst injure no one: and you will clearly see that there is no other
choice for him between so doing and his forcing some one else to forego
_his_ special desires; and this latter proceeding by the way, when it is
done without the sanction of the most powerful part of society, is called
_theft_; though on the big scale and duly sanctioned by artificial laws,
it is, as we have seen, the groundwork of our present system.  Once more,
that system refuses permission to people to produce unless under
artificial restrictions; under Socialism, every one who could produce
would be free to produce, so that the price of an article would be just
the cost of its production, and what we now call profit would no longer
exist: thus, for instance, if a person wanted chairs, he would accumulate
them till he had as many as he could use, and then he would stop, since
he would not have been able to buy them for less than their cost of
production and could not sell them for more: in other words, they would
be nothing else than chairs; under the present system they may be means
of compulsion and destruction as formidable as loaded rifles.

No one therefore would dispute with a man the possession of what he had
acquired without injury to others, and what he could use without injuring
them, and it would so remove temptations toward the abuse of possession,
that probably no laws would be necessary to prevent it.

A few words now as to the differentiation of reward of labour, as I know
my readers are sure to want an exposition of the Socialist views here as
to those who direct labour or who have specially excellent faculties
towards production.  And, first, I will look on the super-excellent
workman as an article presumably needed by the community; and then say
that, as with other articles so with this, the community must pay the
cost of his production: for instance, it will have to seek him out, to
develop his special capacities, and satisfy any needs he may have (if
any) beyond those of an average man, so long as the satisfaction of those
needs is not hurtful to the community.

Furthermore, you cannot give him more than he can use so he will not ask
for more, and will not take it: it is true that his work may be more
special than another’s, but it is not more necessary if you have
organized labour properly; the ploughman and the fisherman are as
necessary to society as the scientist or the artist, I will not say more
necessary: neither is the difficulty of producing the more special and
excellent work at all proportionate to its speciality or excellence: the
higher workman produces his work as easily perhaps as the lower does his
work; if he does not do so, you must give him extra leisure, extra means
for supplying the waste of power in him, but you can give him nothing
more.  The only reward that you _can_ give the excellent workman is
opportunity for developing and exercising his excellent capacity.  I
repeat, you _can_ give him nothing more worth his having: all other
rewards are either illusory or harmful.  I must say in passing, that our
present system of dealing with what is called a man of genius is utterly
absurd: we cruelly starve him and repress his capacity when he is young;
we foolishly pamper and flatter him and again repress his capacity when
he is middle-aged or old: we get the least out of him, not the most.

These last words concern mere rarities in the way of workmen; but in this
respect it is only a matter of degree; the point of the whole thing is
this, that the director of labour is in his place because he is fit for
it, not by a mere accident; being fit for it, he does it easier than he
would do other work, and needs no more compensation for the wear and tear
of life than another man does, and not needing it will not claim it,
since it would be no use to him; his special reward for his special
labour is, I repeat, that he can do it easily, and so does not feel it a
burden; nay, since he can do it _well_ he likes doing it, since indeed
the main pleasure of life is the exercise of energy in the development of
our special capacities.  Again, as regards the workmen who are under his
direction, he needs no special dignity or authority; they know well
enough that so long as he fulfils his function and really does direct
them, if they do not heed him it will be at the cost of their labour
being more irksome and harder.  All this, in short, is what is meant by
the organization of labour, which is, in other words, finding out what
work such and such people are fittest for and leaving them free to do
that: we won’t take the trouble to do that now, with the result that
people’s best faculties are wasted, and that work is a heavy burden to
them, which they naturally shirk as much as they can; it should be rather
a pleasure to them: and I say straight out that, unless we find some
means to make all work more or less pleasurable, we shall never escape
from the great tyranny of the modern world.

Having mentioned the difference between the competitive and commercial
ideas on the subject of the individual holding of wealth and the relative
position of different groups of workmen, I will very briefly say
something on what for want of a better word I must call the political
position which we take up, or at least what we look forward to in the
long run.  The substitution of association for competition is the
foundation of Socialism, and will run through all acts done under it, and
this must act as between nations as well as between individuals: when
profits can no more be made, there will be no necessity for holding
together masses of men to draw together the greatest proportion of profit
to their locality, or to the real or imaginary union of persons and
corporations which is now called a nation.  What we now call a nation is
a body whose function it is to assert the special welfare of its
incorporated members at the expense of all other similar bodies: the
death of competition will deprive it of this function; since there will
be no attack there need be no defence, and it seems to me that this
function being taken away from the nation it can have no other, and
therefore must cease to exist as a political entity.  On this side of the
movement opinion is growing steadily.  It is clear that, quite apart from
Socialism, the idea of local administration is pushing out that of
centralized government: to take a remarkable case: in the French
Revolution of 1793, the most advanced party was centralizing: in the
latest French revolution, that of the Commune of 1871, it was federalist.
Or take Ireland, the success which is to-day attending the struggles of
Ireland for independence is, I am quite sure, owing to the spread of this
idea: it no longer seems a monstrous proposition to liberal-minded
Englishmen that a country should administer its own affairs: the feeling
that it is not only just, but also very convenient to all parties for it
to do so, is extinguishing the prejudices fostered by centuries of
oppressive and wasteful mastership.  And I believe that Ireland will show
that her claim for self-government is not made on behalf of national
rivalry, but rather on behalf of genuine independence; the consideration,
on the one hand, of the needs of her own population, and, on the other,
goodwill towards that of other localities.  Well, the spread of this idea
will make our political work as Socialists the easier; men will at last
come to see that the only way to avoid the tyranny and waste of
bureaucracy is by the Federation of Independent Communities: their
federation being for definite purposes: for furthering the organization
of labour, by ascertaining the real demand for commodities, and so
avoiding waste: for organizing the distribution of goods, the migration
of persons—in short, the friendly intercommunication of people whose
interests are common, although the circumstances of their natural
surroundings made necessary differences of life and manners between them.

I have thus sketched something of the outline of Socialism, by showing
that its aim is first to get rid of the monopoly of the means of
fructifying labour, so that labour may be free to all, and its resulting
wealth may not be engrossed by a few, and so cause the misery and
degradation of the many: and, secondly, that it aims at organizing labour
so that none of it may be wasted, using as a means thereto the free
development of each man’s capacity; and, thirdly, that it aims at getting
rid of national rivalry, which in point of fact means a condition of
perpetual war, sometimes of the money-bag, sometimes of the bullet, and
substituting for this worn-out superstition a system of free communities
living in harmonious federation with each other, managing their own
affairs by the free consent of their members; yet acknowledging some kind
of centre whose function it would be to protect the principle whose
practice the communities should carry out; till at last those principles
would be recognized by every one always and intuitively, when the last
vestiges of centralization would die out.

I am well aware that this complete Socialism, which is sometimes called
Communism, cannot be realized all at once; society will be changed from
its basis when we make the form of robbery called profit impossible by
giving labour full and free access to the means of its
fructification—i.e., to raw material.  The demand for this emancipation
of labour is the basis on which all Socialists may unite.  On more
indefinite grounds they cannot meet other groups of politicians; they can
only rejoice at seeing the ground cleared of controversies which are
really dead, in order that the last controversy may be settled that we
can at present foresee, and the question solved as to whether or no it is
necessary, as some people think it is, that society should be composed of
two groups of dishonest persons, slaves submitting to be slaves, yet for
ever trying to cheat their masters, and masters conscious of their having
no support for their dishonesty of eating the common stock without adding
to it save the mere organization of brute force, which they have to
assert for ever in all details of life against the natural desire of man
to be free.

It may be hoped that we of this generation may be able to prove that it
is unnecessary; but it will, doubt it not, take many generations yet to
prove that it is necessary for such degradation to last as long as
humanity does; and when that is finally proved we shall at least have one
hope left—that humanity will not last long.


{13}  Falsely; because the privileged classes have at their back the
force of the Executive by means of which to compel the unprivileged to
accept their terms; if this is “free competition” there is no meaning in

{37a}  Read at the Conference convened by the Fabian Society at South
Place Institute, June 11, 1886.

{37b}  They _have_ been “rather rough,” you may say, and have done more
than merely hold their sentimental position.  Well, I still say (February
1888) that the present open tyranny which sends political opponents to
prison, both in England and Ireland, and breaks Radical heads in the
street for attempting to attend political meetings, is not Tory, but
Whig; not the old Tory “divine right of kings,” but the new Tory, _i.e._,
Tory-tinted Whig, “divine right of property” made Bloody Sunday possible.
I admit that I did not expect in 1886 that we should in 1887 and 1888 be
having such a brilliant example of the tyranny of a parliamentary
majority; in fact, I did not reckon on the force of the impenetrable
stupidity of the Prigs in alliance with the Whigs marching under the
rather ragged banner of sham Toryism.

{43}  As true now (February 1888) as then: the murder of the Chicago
Anarchists, to wit.

{87}  I suppose he was speaking of the frame houses of Kent.

{176}  And the brick and mortar country London, also, it seems (Feb.

{184}  1886, to wit.

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