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source 01 - Extract: The Roads to Freedom, Bertrand Russell, [Roads to Freedom PDF] …

Chapter 7 – The World as it Could Be

… socialism has been advocated by most of its champions chiefly as a means of increasing the welfare of the wage earning classes, and more particularly their material welfare …

… it has seemed accordingly, to some men whose aims are not material, as if it has nothing to offer toward the general advancement of civilization in the way of art and thought …

… some of its advocates, moreover—and among these marx must be included—have written, no doubt not deliberately, as if with the socialist revolution the millennium would have arrived, and there would be no need of further progress for the human race …

… i do not know whether our age is more restless than that which preceded it, or whether it has merely become more impregnated with the idea of evolution …

… but, for whatever reason, we have grown incapable of believing in a state of static perfection, and we demand, of any social system, which is to have our approval, that it shall contain within itself a stimulus and opportunity for progress toward something still better …

… the doubts thus raised by socialist writers make it necessary to inquire whether socialism would in fact be hostile to art and science, and whether it would be likely to produce a stereotyped society in which progress would become difficult and slow …

… it is not enough that men and women should be made comfortable in a material sense …

… many members of the well-to-do classes at present, in spite of opportunity, contribute nothing of value to the life of the world, and do not even succeed in securing for themselves any personal happiness worthy to be so called …

… the multiplication of such individuals would be an achievement of the very minutest value …

… and if socialism were merely to bestow upon all the kind of life and outlook which is now enjoyed by the more apathetic among the well-to-do, it would offer little that could inspire enthusiasm in any generous spirit …

… “the true role of collective existence,” says m naquet … is to learn, to discover, to know …

… eating, drinking, sleeping, living, in a word, is a mere accessory …

… in this respect, we are not distinguished from the brute … knowledge is the goal …

… if i were condemned to choose between a humanity materially happy, glutted after the manner of a flock of sheep in a field, and a humanity existing in misery, but from which emanated, here and there, some eternal truth, it is on the latter that my choice would fall.” …

… this statement puts the alternative in a very extreme form in which it is somewhat unreal …

… it may be said in reply that for those who have had the leisure and the opportunity to enjoy “eternal truths” it is easy to exalt their importance at the expense of sufferings which fall on others …

… this is true; but, if it is taken as disposing of the question, it leaves out of account the importance of thought for progress …

… viewing the life of mankind as a whole, in the future as well as in the present, there can be no question that a society in which some men pursue knowledge while others endure great poverty offers more hope of ultimate good than a society in which all are sunk in slothful comfort …

… it is true that poverty is a great evil, but it is not true that material prosperity is in itself a great good …

… if it is to have any real value to society, it must be made a means to the advancement of those higher goods that belong to the life of the mind …

… but the life of the mind does not consist of thought and knowledge alone, nor can it be completely healthy unless it has some instinctive contact, however deeply buried, with the general life of the community …

… divorced from the social instinct, thought, like art, tends to become finicky and precious …

… it is the position of such art and thought as is imbued with the instinctive sense of service to mankind that we wish to consider, for it is this alone that makes up the life of the mind in the sense in which it is a vital part of the life of the community …

… will the life of the mind in this sense be helped or hindered by socialism? and will there still be a sufficient spur to progress to prevent a condition of byzantine immobility? in considering this question we are, in a certain sense, passing outside the atmosphere of democracy …

… the general good of the community is realized only in individuals, but it is realized much more fully in some individuals than in others …

… some men have a comprehensive and penetrating intellect, enabling them to appreciate and remember what has been thought and known by their predecessors, and to discover new regions in which they enjoy all the high delights of the mental explorer …

… others have the power of creating beauty, giving bodily form to impalpable visions out of which joy comes to many …

… such men are more fortunate than the mass, and also more important for the collective life …

… a larger share of the general sum of good is concentrated in them than in the ordinary man and woman; but also their contribution to the general good is greater …

… they stand out among men and cannot be wholly fitted into the framework of democratic equality …

… a social system which would render them unproductive would stand condemned, whatever other merits it might have …

… the first thing to realize—though it is difficult in a commercial age—is that what is best in creative mental activity cannot be produced by any system of monetary rewards …

… opportunity and the stimulus of an invigorating spiritual atmosphere are important, but, if they are presented, no financial inducements will be required, while if they are absent, material compensations will be of no avail …

… recognition, even if it takes the form of money, can bring a certain pleasure in old age to the man of science who has battled all his life against academic prejudice, or to the artist who has endured years of ridicule for not painting in the manner of his predecessors; but it is not by the remote hope of such pleasures that their work has been inspired …

… all the most important work springs from an uncalculating impulse, and is best promoted, not by rewards after the event, but by circumstances which keep the impulse alive and afford scope for the activities which it inspires …

… in the creation of such circumstances our present system is much at fault …

… will socialism be better? …

… i do not think this question can be answered without specifying the kind of socialism that is intended: …

… some forms of socialism would, i believe, be even more destructive in this respect than the present capitalist regime, while others would be immeasurably better …

… three things which a social system can provide or withhold are helpful to mental creation …

… first, technical training …

… second, liberty to follow the creative impulse …

… third, at least the possibility of ultimate appreciation by some public, whether large or small …

… we may leave out of our discussion both individual genius and those intangible conditions which make some ages great and others sterile in art and science—not because these are unimportant, but because they are too little understood to be taken account of in economic or political organization …

… the three conditions we have mentioned seem to cover most of what can be seen to be useful or harmful from our present point of view, and it is therefore to them that we shall confine ourselves …

… technical training.—technical training at present, whether in science or art, requires one or other of two conditions …

… either a boy must be the son of well-to-do parents who can afford to keep him while he acquires his education, or he must show so much ability at an early age as to enable him to subsist on scholarships until he is ready to earn his living …

… the former condition is, of course, a mere matter of luck, and could not be preserved in its present form under any kind of socialism or communism …

… this loss is emphasized by defenders of the present system, and no doubt it would be, to same extent, a real loss …

… but the well-to-do are a small proportion of the population, and presumably on the average no more talented by nature than their less fortunate contemporaries …

… if the advantages which are enjoyed now by those few among them who are capable of good work in science or art could be extended, even in a slightly attenuated form, to all who are similarly gifted, the result would almost infallibly be a gain, and much ability which is now wasted would be rendered fruitful …

… but how is this to be effected? the system of scholarships obtained by competition, though better than nothing, is objectionable from many points of view …

… it introduces the competitive spirit into the work of the very young; it makes them regard knowledge from the standpoint of what is useful in examinations rather than in the light of its intrinsic interest or importance; …

… it places a premium upon that sort of ability which is displayed precociously in glib answers to set questions rather than upon the kind that broods on difficulties and remains for a time rather dumb …

… what is perhaps worse than any of these defects is the tendency to cause overwork in youth, leading to lack of vigor and interest when manhood has been reached …

… it can hardly be doubted that by this cause, at present, many fine minds have their edge blunted and their keenness destroyed …

… state socialism might easily universalize the system of scholarships obtained by competitive examination, and if it did so it is to be feared that it would be very harmful …

… state socialists at present tend to be enamored of the systems which is exactly of the kind that every bureaucrat loves: orderly, neat, giving a stimulus to industrious habits, and involving no waste of a sort that could be tabulated in statistics or accounts of public expenditure …

… such men will argue that free higher education is expensive to the community, and only useful in the case of those who have exceptional abilities; it ought, therefore, they will say, not to be given to all, but only to those who will become more useful members of society through receiving it …

… such arguments make a great appeal to what are called “practical” men, and the answers to them are of a sort which it is difficult to render widely convincing …

… revolt against the evils of competition is, however, part of the very essence of the socialist’s protest against the existing order, and on this ground, if on no other, those who favor socialism may be summoned to look for some better solution …

… much the simplest solution, and the only really effective one, is to make every kind of education free up to the age of twenty-one for all boys and girls who desire it …

… the majority will be tired of education before that age, and will prefer to begin other work sooner; this will lead to a natural selection of those with strong interests in some pursuit requiring a long training …

… among those selected in this way by their own inclinations, probably almost all tho have marked abilities of the kind in question will be included …

… it is true that there will also be many who have very little ability; the desire to become a painter, for example, is by no means confined to those who can paint …

… but this degree of waste could well be borne by the community; it would be immeasurably less than that now entailed by the support of the idle rich …

… any system which aims at avoiding this kind of waste must entail the far more serious waste of rejecting or spoiling some of the best ability in each generation …

… the system of free education up to any grade for all who desire it is the only system which is consistent with the principles of liberty, and the only one which gives a reasonable hope of affording full scope for talent …

… this system is equally compatible with all forms of socialism and anarchism …

… theoretically, it is compatible with capitalism, but practically it is so opposite in spirit that it would hardly be feasible without a complete economic reconstruction …

… the fact that socialism would facilitate it must be reckoned a very powerful argument in favor of change, for the waste of talent at present in the poorer classes of society must be stupendous …

… liberty to follow the creative impulse.—when a man’s training has been completed, if he is possessed of really great abilities, he will do his best work if he is completely free to follow his bent, creating what seems good to him, regardless of the judgment of “experts.” …

… at present this is only possible for two classes of people: those who have private means, and those who can earn a living by an occupation that does not absorb their whole energies …

… under socialism, there will be no one with private means, and if there is to be no loss as regards art and science, the opportunity which now comes by accident to a few will have to be provided deliberately for a much larger number …

… the men who have used private means as an opportunity for creative work have been few but important: one might mention milton, shelley, keats and darwin as examples …

… probably none of these would have produced as good work if they had had to earn their livelihood …

… if darwin had been a university teacher, he would of course have been dismissed from his post by the influence of the clerics on account of his scandalous theories …

… nevertheless, the bulk of the creative work of the world is done at present by men who subsist by some other occupation …

… science, and research generally, are usually done in their spare time by men who live by teaching …

… there is no great objection to this in the case of science, provided the number of hours devoted to teaching is not excessive …

… it is partly because science and teaching are so easily combined that science is vigorous in the present age …

… in music, a composer who is also a performer enjoys similar advantages, but one who is not a performer must starve, unless he is rich or willing to pander to the public taste …

… in the fine arts, as a rule, it is not easy in the modern world either to make a living by really good work or to find a subsidiary profession which leaves enough leisure for creation …

… this is presumably one reason, though by no means the only one, why art is less flourishing than science …

… the bureaucratic state socialist will have a simple solution for these difficulties …

… he will appoint a body consisting of the most eminent celebrities in an art or a science, whose business it shall be to judge the work of young men, and to issue licenses to those whose productions find favor in their eyes …

… a licensed artist shall be considered to have performed his duty to the community by producing works of art …

… but of course he will have to prove his industry by never failing to produce in reasonable quantities, and his continued ability by never failing to please his eminent judges—until, in the fulness of time, he becomes a judge himself …

… in this way, the authorities will insure that the artist shall be competent, regular, and obedient to the best traditions of his art …

… those who fail to fulfil these conditions will be compelled by the withdrawal of their license to seek some less dubious mode of earning their living …

… such will be the ideal of the state socialist …

… in such a world all that makes life tolerable to the lover of beauty would perish …

… art springs from a wild and anarchic side of human nature; between the artist and the bureaucrat there must always be a profound mutual antagonism, an agelong battle in which the artist, always outwardly worsted, wins in the end through the gratitude of mankind for the joy that he puts into their lives …

… if the wild side of human nature is to be permanently subjected to the orderly rules of the benevolent, uncomprehending bureaucrat, the joy of life will perish out of the earth, and the very impulse to live will gradually wither and die …

… better a thousandfold the present world with all its horrors than such a dead mummy of a world …

… better anarchism, with all its risks, than a state socialism that subjects to rule what must be spontaneous and free if it is to have any value …

… it is this nightmare that makes artists, and lovers of beauty generally, so often suspicious of socialism …

… but there is nothing in the essence of socialism to make art impossible: only certain forms of socialism would entail this danger …

… william morris was a socialist, and was a socialist very largely because he was an artist …

… and in this he was not irrational …

… it is impossible for art, or any of the higher creative activities, to flourish under any system which requires that the artist shall prove his competence to some body of authorities before he is allowed to follow his impulse …

… any really great artist is almost sure to be thought incompetent by those among his seniors who would be generally regarded as best qualified to form an opinion …

… and the mere fact of having to produce work which will please older men is hostile to a free spirit and to bold innovation …

… apart from this difficulty, selection by older men would lead to jealousy and intrigue and back-biting, producing a poisonous atmosphere of underground competition …

… the only effect of such a plan would be to eliminate the few who now slip through owing to some fortunate accident …

… it is not by any system, but by freedom alone, that art can flourish …

… there are two ways by which the artist could secure freedom under socialism of the right kind …

… he might undertake regular work outside his art, doing only a few hours’ work a day and receiving proportionately less pay than those who do a full day’s work …

… he ought, in that case, to be at liberty to sell his pictures if he could find purchasers …

… such a system would have many advantages …

… it would leave absolutely every man free to become an artist, provided he were willing to suffer a certain economic loss …

… this would not deter those in whom the impulse was strong and genuine, but would tend to exclude the dilettante …

… many young artists at present endure voluntarily much greater poverty than need be entailed by only doing half the usual day’s work in a well-organized socialist community; and some degree of hardship is not objectionable, as a test of the strength of the creative impulse, and as an offset to the peculiar joys of the creative life …

… the other possibility[which we discussed in chapter iv.] would be that the necessaries of life should be free, as anarchists desire, to all equally, regardless of whether they work or not …

… under this plan, every man could live without work: there would be what might be called a “vagabond’s wage,” sufficient for existence but not for luxury …

… the artist who preferred to have his whole time for art and enjoyment might live on the “vagabond’s wage”—traveling on foot when the humor seized him to see foreign countries, enjoying the air and the sun, as free as the birds, and perhaps scarcely less happy …

… such men would bring color and diversity into the life of the community; their outlook would be different from that of steady, stay-at-home workers, and would keep alive a muchneeded element of light-heartedness which our sober, serious civilization tends to kill …

… if they became very numerous, they might be too great an economic burden on the workers; but i doubt if there are many with enough capacity for simple enjoyments to choose poverty and free-dom in preference to the comparatively light and pleasant work which will be usual in those days …

… by either of these methods, freedom can be preserved for the artist in a socialistic commonwealth—far more complete freedom, and far more widespread, than any that now exists except for the possessors of capital …

… but there still remain some not altogether easy problems …

… take, for example, the publishing of books … there will not, under socialism, be private publishers as at present: under state socialism, presumably the state will be the sole publisher, while under syndicalism or guild socialism the federation du livre will have the whole of the trade in its hands …

… under these circumstances, who is to decide what mss …

… are to be printed? it is clear that opportunities exist for an index more rigorous than that of the inquisition …

… if the state were the sole publisher, it would doubtless refuse books opposed to state socialism …

… if the federation du livre were the ultimate arbiter, what publicity could be obtained for works criticising it? and apart from such political difficulties we should have, as regards literature, that very censorship by eminent officials which we agreed to regard as disastrous when we were considering the fine arts in general …

… the difficulty is serious, and a way of meeting it must be found if literature is to remain free …

… kropotkin, who believes that manual and intellectual work should be combined, holds that authors themselves should be compositors, bookbinders, etc …

… he even seems to suggest that the whole of the manual work involved in producing books should be done by authors …

… it may be doubted whether there are enough authors in the world for this to be possible, and in any case i cannot but think that it would be a waste of time for them to leave the work they understand in order to do badly work which others could do far better and more quickly …

… that, however, does not touch our present point, which is the question how the mss to be printed will be selected …

… in kropotkin’s plan there will presumably be an author’s guild, with a committee of management, if anarchism allows such things …

… this committee of management will decide which of the books submitted to it are worthy to be printed …

… among these will be included those by the committee and their friends, but not those by their enemies …

… authors of rejected mss will hardly have the patience to spend their time setting up the works of successful rivals, and there will have to be an elaborate system of log-rolling if any books are to be printed at all …

… it hardly looks as if this plan would conduce to harmony among literary men, or would lead to the publication of any book of an unconventional tendency …

… kropotkin’s own books, for example, would hardly have found favor …

… the only way of meeting these difficulties, whether under state socialism or guild socialism or anarchism, seems to be by making it possible for an author to pay for the publication of his book if it is not such as the state or the guild is willing to print at its own expense …

… i am aware that this method is contrary to the spirit of socialism, but i do not see what other way there is of securing freedom …

… the payment might be made by undertaking to engage for an assigned period in some work of recognized utility and to hand over such proportion of the earnings as might be necessary …

… the work undertaken might of course be, as kropotkin suggests, the manual part of the production of books, but i see no special reason why it should be …

… it would have to be an absolute rule that no book should be refused, no matter what the nature of its contents might be, if payment for publication were offered at the standard rate …

… an author who had admirers would be able to secure their help in payment …

… an unknown author might, it is true, have to suffer a considerable loss of comfort in order to make his payment, but that would give an automatic means of eliminating those whose writing was not the result of any very profound impulse and would be by no means wholly an evil …

… probably some similar method would be desirable as regards the publishing and performing of new music …

… what we have been suggesting will, no doubt, be objected to by orthodox socialists, since they will find something repugnant to their principles in the whole idea of a private person paying to have certain work done …

… but it is a mistake to be the slave of a system, and every system, if it is applied rigidly, will entail evils which could only be avoided by some concession to the exigencies of special cases …

… on the whole, a wise form of socialism might afford infinitely better opportunities for the artist and the man of science than are possible in a capitalist community, but only if the form of socialism adopted is one which is fitted for this end by means of provisions such as we have been suggesting …

… 3 …

… possibility of appreciation.—this condition is one which is not necessary to all who do creative work, but in the sense in which i mean it the great majority find it very nearly indispensable …

… i do not mean widespread public recognition, nor that ignorant, half-sincere respect which is commonly accorded to artists who have achieved success …

… neither of these serves much purpose …

… what i mean is rather understanding, and a spontaneous feeling that things of beauty are important …

… in a thoroughly commercialized society, an artist is respected if he makes money, and because he makes money, but there is no genuine respect for the works of art by which his money has been made …

… a millionaire whose fortune has been made in button-hooks or chewing-gum is regarded with awe, but none of this feeling is bestowed on the articles from which his wealth is derived …

… in a society which measures all things by money the same tends to be true of the artist …

… if he has become rich he is respected, though of course less than the millionaire, but his pictures or books or music are regarded as the chewing gum or the button-hooks are regarded, merely as a means to money …

… in such an atmosphere it is very difficult for the artist to preserve his creative impulse pure: either he is contaminated by his surroundings, or he becomes embittered through lack of appreciation for the object of his endeavor …

… it is not appreciation of the artist that is necessary so much as appreciation of the art …

… it is difficult for an artist to live in an environment in which everything is judged by its utility, rather than by its intrinsic quality …

… the whole side of life of which art is the flower requires something which may be called disinterestedness, a capacity for direct enjoyment without thought of tomorrow’s problems and difficulties …

… when people are amused by a joke they do not need to be persuaded that it will serve some important purpose …

… the same kind of direct pleasure is involved in any genuine appreciation of art …

… the struggle for life, the serious work of a trade or profession, is apt to make people too solemn for jokes and too preoccupied for art …

… the easing of the struggle, the diminution in the hours of work, and the lightening of the burden of existence, which would result from a better economic system, could hardly fail to increase the joy of life and the vital energy, available for sheer delight in the world …

… and if this were achieved there would inevitably be more spontaneous pleasure in beautiful things, and more enjoyment of the work of artists …

… but none of these good results are to be expected from the mere removal of poverty: they all require also a diffused sense of freedom, and the absence of that feeling of oppression by a vast machine which now weighs down the individual spirit …

… i do not think state socialism can give this sense of freedom, but some other forms of socialism, which have absorbed what is true in anarchist teaching, can give it to a degree of which capitalism is wholly incapable …

… a general sense of progress and achievement is an immense stimulus to all forms of creative work …

… for this reason, a great deal will depend, not only in material ways, upon the question whether methods of production in industry and agriculture become stereotyped or continue to change rapidly as they have done during the last hundred years …

… improved methods of production will be much more obviously than now to the interest of the community at large, when what every man receives is his due share of the total produce of labor …

… but there will probably not be any individuals with the same direct and intense interest in technical improvements as now belongs to the capitalist in manufacture …

… if the natural conservatism of the workers is not to prove stronger than their interest in increasing production, it will be necessary that, when better methods are introduced by the workers in any industry, part at least of the benefit should be allowed for a time to be retained by them …

… if this is done, it may be presumed that each guild will be continually seeking for new processes or inventions, and will value those technical parts of scientific research which are useful for this purpose …

… with every improvement, the question will arise whether it is to be used to give more leisure or to increase the dividend of commodities …

… where there is so much more leisure than there is now, there will be many more people with a knowledge of science or an understanding of art …

… the artist or scientific investigator will be far less cut off than he is at present from the average citizen, and this will almost inevitably be a stimulus to his creative energy …

… i think we may fairly conclude that, from the point of view of all three requisites for art and science, namely, training, freedom and appreciation, state socialism would largely fail to remove existing evils and would introduce new evils of its own; …

… but guild socialism, or even syndicalism, if it adopted a liberal policy toward those who preferred to work less than the usual number of hours at recognized occupations, might be immeasurably preferable to anything that is possible under the rule of capitalism …

… there are dangers, but they will all vanish if the importance of liberty is adequately acknowledged …

… in this as in nearly everything else, the road to all that is best is the road of freedom …

… chapter viii the world as it could be made in the daily lives of most men and women, fear plays a greater part than hope: they are more filled with the thought of the possessions that others may take from them, than of the joy that they might create in their own lives and in the lives with which they come in contact …

… it is not so that life should be lived …

… those whose lives are fruitful to themselves, to their friends, or to the world are inspired by hope and sustained by joy: they see in imagination the things that might be and the way in which they are to be brought into existence …

… in their private relations they are not pre-occupied with anxiety lest they should lose such affection and respect as they receive: they are engaged in giving affection and respect freely, and the reward comes of itself without their seeking …

… in their work they are not haunted by jealousy of competitors, but concerned with the actual matter that has to be done …

… in politics, they do not spend time and passion defending unjust privileges of their class or nation, but they aim at making the world as a whole happier, less cruel, less full of conflict between rival greeds, and more full of human beings whose growth has not been dwarfed and stunted by oppression …

… a life lived in this spirit—the spirit that aims at creating rather than possessing—has a certain fundamental happiness, of which it cannot be wholly robbed by adverse circumstances …

… this is the way of life recommended in the gospels, and by all the great teachers of the world …

… those who have found it are freed from the tyranny of fear, since what they value most in their lives is not at the mercy of outside power …

… if all men could summon up the courage and the vision to live in this way in spite of obstacles and discouragement, there would be no need for the regeneration of the world to begin by political and economic reform: …

… all that is needed in the way of reform would come automatically, without resistance, owing to the moral regeneration of individuals …

… but the teaching of christ has been nominally accepted by the world for many centuries, and yet those who follow it are still persecuted as they were before the time of constantine …

… experience has proved that few are able to see through the apparent evils of an outcast’s life to the inner joy that comes of faith and creative hope …

… if the domination of fear is to be overcome, it is not enough, as regards the mass of men, to preach courage and indifference to misfortune: it is necessary to remove the causes of fear, to make a good life no longer an unsuccessful one in a worldly sense, and to diminish the harm that can be inflicted upon those who are not wary in self-defense …

… when we consider the evils in the lives we know of, we find that they may be roughly divided into three classes …

… there are, first, those due to physical nature: among these are death, pain and the difficulty of making the soil yield a subsistence …

… these we will call “physical evils.” …

… second, we may put those that spring from defects in the character or aptitudes of the sufferer: among these are ignorance, lack of will, and violent passions …

… these we will call “evils of character.” …

… third come those that depend upon the power of one individual or group over another: these comprise not only obvious tyranny, but all interference with free development, whether by force or by excessive mental influence such as may occur in education …

… these we will call “evils of power.” …

… a social system may be judged by its bearing upon these three kinds of evils …

… the distinction between the three kinds cannot be sharply drawn …

… purely physical evil is a limit, which we can never be sure of having reached: we cannot abolish death, but we can often postpone it by science, and it may ultimately become possible to secure that the great majority shall live till old age; …

… we cannot wholly prevent pain, but we can diminish it indefinitely by securing a healthy life for all; we cannot make the earth yield its fruits in any abundance without labor, but we can diminish the amount of the labor and improve its conditions until it ceases to be an evil …

… evils of character are often the result of physical evil in the shape of illness, and still more often the result of evils of power, since tyranny degrades both those who exercise it and (as a rule) those who suffer it …

… evils of power are intensified by evils of character in those who have power, and by fear of the physical evil which is apt to be the lot of those who have no power …

… for all these reasons, the three sorts of evil are intertwined …

… nevertheless, speaking broadly, we may distinguish among our misfortunes those which have their proximate cause in the material world, those which are mainly due to defects in ourselves, and those which spring from our being subject to the control of others …

… the main methods of combating these evils are: for physical evils, science; for evils of character, education (in the widest sense) and a free outlet for all impulses that do not involve domination; for evils of power, the reform of the political and economic organization of society in such a way as to reduce to the lowest possible point the interference of one man with the life of another …

… we will begin with the third of these kinds of evil, because it is evils of power specially that socialism and anarchism have sought to remedy …

… their protest against inequalities of wealth has rested mainly upon their sense of the evils arising from the power conferred by wealth …

… this point has been well stated by mr g d h cole:— what, i want to ask, is the fundamental evil in our modern society which we should set out to abolish? …

… there are two possible answers to that question, and i am sure that very many well-meaning people would make the wrong one …

… they would answer poverty, when they ought to answer slavery …

… face to face every day with the shameful contrasts of riches and destitution, high dividends and low wages, and painfully conscious of the futility of trying to adjust the balance by means of charity, private or public, they would answer unhesitatingly that they stand for the abolition of poverty …

… well and good! on that issue every socialist is with them but their answer to my question is none the less wrong …

… poverty is the symptom: slavery the disease …

… the extremes of riches and destitution follow inevitably upon the extremes of license and bondage …

… the many are not enslaved because they are poor, they are poor because they are enslaved …

… yet socialists have all too often fixed their eyes upon the material misery of the poor without realizing that it rests upon the spiritual degradation of the slave …

… i do not think any reasonable person can doubt that the evils of power in the present system are vastly greater than is necessary, nor that they might be immeasurably diminished by a suitable form of socialism …

… a few fortunate people, it is true, are now enabled to live freely on rent or interest, and they could hardly have more liberty under another system …

… but the great bulk, not only of the very poor, but, of all sections of wage-earners and even of the professional classes, are the slaves of the need for getting money …

… almost all are compelled to work so hard that they have little leisure for enjoyment or for pursuits outside their regular occupation …

… those who are able to retire in later middle age are bored, because they have not learned how to fill their time when they are at liberty, and such interests as they once had apart from work have dried up …

… yet these are the exceptionally fortunate: the majority have to work hard till old age, with the fear of destitution always before them, the richer ones dreading that they will be unable to give their children the education or the medical care that they consider desirable, the poorer ones often not far removed from starvation …

… and almost all who work have no voice in the direction of their work; throughout the hours of labor they are mere machines carrying out the will of a master …

… work is usually done under disagreeable conditions, involving pain and physical hardship …

… the only motive to work is wages: the very idea that work might be a joy, like the work of the artist, is usually scouted as utterly utopian …

… but by far the greater part of these evils are wholly unnecessary …

… if the civilized portion of mankind could be induced to desire their own happiness more than another’s pain, if they could be induced to work constructively for improvements which they would share with all the world rather than destructively to prevent other classes or nations from stealing a march on them, the whole system by which the world’s work is done might be reformed root and branch within a generation …

… from the point of view of liberty, what system would be the best? …

… in what direction should we wish the forces of progress to move? from this point of view, neglecting for the moment all other considerations, i have no doubt that the best system would be one not far removed from that advocated by kropotkin, but rendered more practicable by the adoption of the main principles of guild socialism …

… since every point can be disputed, i will set down without argument the kind of organization of work that would seem best …

… education should be compulsory up to the age of 16, or perhaps longer; after that, it should be continued or not at the option of the pupil, but remain free (for those who desire it) up to at least the age of 21 …

… when education is finished no one should be compelled to work, and those who choose not to work should receive a bare livelihood, and be left completely free; but probably it would be desirable that there should be a strong public opinion in favor of work, so that only comparatively few should choose idleness …

… one great advantage of making idleness economically possible is that it would afford a powerful motive for making work not disagreeable; and no community where most work is disagreeable can be said to have found a solution of economic problems …

… i think it is reasonable to assume that few would choose idleness, in view of the fact that even now at least nine out of ten of those who have (say) 100 pounds a year from investments prefer to increase their income by paid work …

… coming now to that great majority who will not choose idleness, i think we may assume that, with the help of science, and by the elimination of the vast amount of unproductive work involved in internal and international competition, the whole community could be kept in comfort by means of four hours’ work a day …

… it is already being urged by experienced employers that their employes can actually produce as much in a six-hour day as they can when they work eight hours …

… in a world where there is a much higher level of technical instruction than there is now the same tendency will be accentuated …

… people will be taught not only, as at present, one trade, or one small portion of a trade, but several trades, so that they can vary their occupation according to the seasons and the fluctuations of demand …

… every industry will be selfgoverning as regards all its internal affairs, and even separate factories will decide for themselves all questions that only concern those who work in them …

… there will not be capitalist management, as at present, but management by elected representatives, as in politics …

… relations between different groups of producers will be settled by the guild congress, matters concerning the community as the inhabitants of a certain area will continue to be decided by parliament, while all disputes between parliament and the guild congress will be decided by a body composed of representatives of both in equal numbers …

… payment will not be made, as at present, only for work actually required and performed, but for willingness to work …

… this system is already adopted in much of the better paid work: a man occupies a certain position, and retains it even at times when there happens to be very little to do …

… the dread of unemployment and loss of livelihood will no longer haunt men like a nightmare …

… whether all who are willing to work will be paid equally, or whether exceptional skill will still command exceptional pay, is a matter which may be left to each guild to decide for itself …

… an opera-singer who received no more pay than a scene-shifter might choose to be a sceneshifter until the system was changed: if so, higher pay would probably be found necessary …

… but if it were freely voted by the guild, it could hardly constitute a grievance …

… whatever might be done toward making work agreeable, it is to be presumed that some trades would always remain unpleasant …

… men could be attracted into these by higher pay or shorter hours, instead of being driven into them by destitution …

… the community would then have a strong economic motive for finding ways of diminishing the disagreeableness of these exceptional trades …

… there would still have to be money, or something analogous to it, in any community such as we are imagining …

… the anarchist plan of a free distribution of the total produce of work in equal shares does not get rid of the need for some standard of exchange value, since one man will choose to take his share in one form and another in another …

… when the day comes for distributing luxuries, old ladies will not want their quota of cigars, nor young men their just proportion of lapdog; this will make it necessary to know how many cigars are the equivalent of one lap-dog …

… much the simplest way is to pay an income, as at present, and allow relative values to be adjusted according to demand …

… but if actual coin were paid, a man might hoard it and in time become a capitalist …

… to prevent this, it would be best to pay notes available only during a certain period, say one year from the date of issue …

… this would enable a man to save up for his annual holiday, but not to save indefinitely …

… there is a very great deal to be said for the anarchist plan of allowing necessaries, and all commodities that can easily be produced in quantities adequate to any possible demand, to be given away freely to all who ask for them, in any amounts they may require …

… the question whether this plan should be adopted is, to my mind, a purely technical one: would it be, in fact, possible to adopt it without much waste and consequent diversion of labor to the production of necessaries when it might be more usefully employed otherwise? …

… i have not the means of answering this question, but i think it exceedingly probable that, sooner or later, with the continued improvement in the methods of production, this anarchist plan will become feasible; and when it does, it certainly ought to be adopted …

… women in domestic work, whether married or unmarried, will receive pay as they would if they were in industry …

… this will secure the complete economic independence of wives, which is difficult to achieve in any other way, since mothers of young children ought not to be expected to work outside the home …

… the expense of children will not fall, as at present, on the parents …

… they will receive, like adults, their share of necessaries, and their education will be free.[some may fear that the result would be an undue increase of population, but such fears i believe to be groundless …

… there is no longer to be the present competition for scholarships among the abler children: they will not be imbued with the competitive spirit from infancy, or forced to use their brains to an unnatural degree with consequent listlessness and lack of health in later life …

… education will be far more diversified than at present; greater care will be taken to adapt it to the needs of different types of young people …

… there will be more attempt to encourage initiative young pupils, and less desire to fill their minds with a set of beliefs and mental habits regarded as desirable by the state, chiefly because they help to preserve the status quo …

… for the great majority of children it will probably be found desirable to have much more outdoor education in the country …

… and for older boys and girls whose interests are not intellectual or artistic, technical education, undertaken in a liberal spirit, is far more useful in promoting mental activity than book-learning which they regard (however falsely) as wholly useless except for purposes of examination …

… the really useful educa-tion is that which follows the direction of the child’s own instinctive interests, supplying knowledge for which it is seeking, not dry, detailed information wholly out of relation to its spontaneous desires …

… government and law will still exist in our community, but both will be reduced to a minimum …

… there will still be acts which will be forbidden—for example, murder …

… but very nearly the whole of that part of the criminal law which deals with property will have become obsolete, and many of the motives which now produce murders will be no longer operative …

… those who nevertheless still do commit crimes will not be blamed or regarded as wicked; they will be regarded as unfortunate, and kept in some kind of mental hospital until it is thought that they are no longer a danger …

… by education and freedom and the abolition of private capital the number of crimes can be made exceedingly small …

… by the method of individual curative treatment it will generally be possible to secure that a man’s first offense shall also be his last, except in the case of lunatics and the feeble-minded, for whom of course a more prolonged but not less kindly detention may be necessary …

… government may be regarded as consisting of two parts: the one, the decisions of the community or its recognized organs; the other, the enforcing of those decisions upon all who resist them …

… the first part is not objected to by anarchists …

… the second part, in an ordinary civilized state, may remain entirely in the background: those who have resisted a new law while it was being debated will, as a rule, submit to it when it is passed, because resistance is generally useless in a settled and orderly community …

… but the possibility of governmental force remains, and indeed is the very reason for the submission which makes force unnecessary …

… if, as anarchists desire, there were no use of force by government, the majority could still band themselves together and use force against the minority …

… the only difference would be that their army or their police force would be ad hoc, instead of being permanent and professional …

… the result of this would be that everyone would have to learn how to fight, for fear a well-drilled minority should seize power and establish an old-fashioned oligarchic state …

… thus the aim of the anarchists seems hardly likely to be achieved by the methods which they advocate …

… the reign of violence in human affairs, whether within a country or in its external relations, can only be prevented, if we have not been mistaken, by an authority able to declare all use of force except by itself illegal …

… and strong enough to be obviously capable of making all other use of force futile, except when it could secure the support of public opinion as a defense of freedom or a resistance to injustice …

… such an authority exists within a country: it is the state … but in international affairs it remains to be created …

… the difficulties are stupendous, but they must be overcome if the world is to be saved from periodical wars, each more destructive than any of its predecessors …

… whether, after this war, a league of nations will be formed, and will be capable of performing this task, it is as yet impossible to foretell …

… however that may be, some method of preventing wars will have to be established before our utopia becomes possible …

… when once men believe that the world is safe from war, the whole difficulty will be solved: there will then no longer be any serious resistance to the disbanding of national armies and navies, and the substitution for them of a small international force for protection against uncivilized races …

… and when that stage has been reached, peace will be virtually secure …

… the practice of government by majorities, which anarchists criticise, is in fact open to most of the objections which they urge against it …

… still more objectionable is the power of the executive in matters vitally affecting the happiness of all, such as peace and war …

… but neither can be dispensed with suddenly …

… there are, however, two methods of diminishing the harm done by them: …

… (1) government by majorities can be made less oppressive by devolution, by placing the decision of questions primarily affecting only a section of the community in the hands of that section, rather than of a central chamber …

… in this way, men are no longer forced to submit to decisions made in a hurry by people mostly ignorant of the matter in hand and not personally interested …

… autonomy for internal affairs should be given, not only to areas, but to all groups, such as industries or churches, which have important common interests not shared by the rest of the community …

… (2) the great powers vested in the executive of a modern state are chiefly due to the frequent need of rapid decisions, especially as regards foreign affairs …

… if the danger of war were practically eliminated, more cumbrous but less autocratic methods would be possible, and the legislature might recover many of the powers which the executive has usurped …

… by these two methods, the intensity of the interference with liberty involved in government can be gradually diminished …

… some interference, and even some danger of unwarranted and despotic interference, is of the essence of government, and must remain so long as government remains …

… but until men are less prone to violence than they are now, a certain degree of governmental force seems the lesser of two evils …

… we may hope, however, that if once the danger of war is at an end, men’s violent impulses will gradually grow less, the more so as, in that case, it will be possible to diminish enormously the individual power which now makes rulers autocratic and ready for almost any act of tyranny in order to crush opposition …

… the development of a world where even governmental force has become unnecessary (except against lunatics) must be gradual …

… but as a gradual process it is perfectly possible; and when it has been completed we may hope to see the principles of anarchism embodied in the management of communal affairs …

… how will the economic and political system that we have outlined bear on the evils of character? i believe the effect will be quite extraordinarily beneficent …

… the process of leading men’s thought and imagination away from the use of force will be greatly accelerated by the abolition of the capitalist system, provided it is not succeeded by a form of state socialism in which officials have enormous power …

… at present, the capitalist has more control over the lives of others than any man ought to have; his friends have authority in the state; his economic power is the pattern for political power …

… in a world where all men and women enjoy economic freedom, there will not be the same habit of command, nor, consequently, the same love of despotism; a gentler type of character than that now prevalent will gradually grow up …

… men are formed by their circumstances, not born ready-made …

… the bad effect of the present economic system on character, and the immensely better effect to be expected from communal ownership, are among the strongest reasons for advocating the change …

… in the world as we have been imagining fit, economic fear and most economic hope will be alike removed out of life …

… no one will be haunted by the dread of poverty or driven into ruthlessness by the hope of wealth …

… there will not be the distinction of social classes which now plays such an immense part in life …

… the unsuccessful professional man will not live in terror lest his children should sink in the scale; the aspiring employee will not be looking forward to the day when he can become a sweater in his turn …

… ambitious young men will have to dream other daydreams than that of business success and wealth wrung out of the ruin of competitors and the degradation of labor …

… in such a world, most of the nightmares that lurk in the background of men’s minds will no longer exist; on the other hand, ambition and the desire to excel will have to take nobler forms than those that are encouraged by a commercial society …

… all those activities that really confer benefits upon mankind will be open, not only to the fortunate few, but to all who have sufficient ambition and native aptitude …

… science, labor-saving inventions, technical progress of all kinds, may be confidently expected to flourish far more than at present, since they will be the road to honor, and honor will have to replace money among those of the young who desire to achieve success …

… whether art will flourish in a socialistic community depends upon the form of social-ism adopted; if the state, or any public authority, (no matter what), insists upon controlling art, and only licensing those whom it regards as proficient, the result will be disaster …

… but if there is real freedom, allowing every man who so desires to take up an artist’s career at the cost of some sacrifice of comfort, it is likely that the atmosphere of hope, and the absence of economic compulsion, will lead to a much smaller waste of talent than is involved in our present system, and to a much less degree of crushing of impulse in the mills of the struggle for life …

… when elementary needs have been satisfied, the serious happiness of most men depends upon two things: their work, and their human relations …

… in the world that we have been picturing, work will be free, not excessive, full of the interest that belongs to a collective enterprise in which there is rapid progress, with something of the delight of creation even for the humblest unit …

… and in human relations the gain will be just as great as in work …

… the only human relations that have value are those that are rooted in mutual freedom, where there is no domination and no slavery, no tie except affection, no economic or conventional necessity to preserve the external show when the inner life is dead …

… one of the most horrible things about commercialism is the way in which it poisons the relations of men and women …

… the evils of prostitution are generally recognized, but, great as they are, the effect of economic conditions on marriage seems to me even worse …

… there is not infrequently, in marriage, a suggestion of purchase, of acquiring a woman on condition of keeping her in a certain standard of material comfort …

… often and often, a marriage hardly differs from prostitution except by being harder to escape from …

… the whole basis of these evils is economic …

… economic causes make marriage a matter of bargain and contract, in which affection is quite secondary, and its absence constitutes no recognized reason for liberation …

… marriage should be a free, spontaneous meeting of mutual instinct, filled with happiness not unmixed with a feeling akin to awe: it should involve that degree of respect of each for the other that makes even the most trifling interference with liberty an utter impossibility, and a common life enforced by one against the will of the other an unthinkable thing of deep horror …

… it is not so that marriage is conceived by lawyers who make settlements, or by priests who give the name of “sacrament” to an institution which pretends to find something sanctifiable in the brutal lusts or drunken cruelties of a legal husband …

… it is not in a spirit of freedom that marriage is conceived by most men and women at present: the law makes it an opportunity for indulgence of the desire to interfere, where each submits to some loss of his or her own liberty, for the pleasure of curtailing the liberty of the other …

… and the atmosphere of private property makes it more difficult than it otherwise would be for any better ideal to take root …

… it is not so that human relations will be conceived when the evil heritage of economic slavery has ceased to mold our instincts …

… husbands and wives, parents and children, will be only held together by affection: where that has died, it will be recognized that nothing worth preserving is left …

… because affection will be free, men and women will not find in private life an outlet and stimulus to the love of domineering, but all that is creative in their love will have the freer scope …

… reverence for whatever makes the soul in those who are loved will be less rare than it is now: nowadays, many men love their wives in the way in which they love mutton, as something to devour and destroy …

… but in the love that goes with reverence there is a joy of quite another order than any to be found by mastery, a joy which satisfies the spirit and not only the instincts; and satisfaction of instinct and spirit at once is necessary to a happy life, or indeed to any existence that is to bring out the best impulses of which a man or woman is capable …

… in the world which we should wish to see, there will be more joy of life than in the drab tragedy of modern every-day existence …

… after early youth, as things are, most men are bowed down by forethought, no longer capable of light-hearted gaiety, but only of a kind of solemn jollification by the clock at the appropriate hours …

… the advice to “become as little children” would be good for many people in many respects, but it goes with another precept, “take no thought for the morrow,” which is hard to obey in a competitive world …

… there is often in men of science, even when they are quite old, something of the simplicity of a child: their absorption in abstract thought has held them aloof from the world, and respect for their work has led the world to keep them alive in spite of their innocence …

… such men have succeeded in living as all men ought to be able to live; but as things are, the economic struggle makes their way of life impossible for the great majority …

… what are we to say, lastly, of the effect of our projected world upon physical evil? …

… will there be less illness than there is at present? …

… will the produce of a given amount of labor be greater? …

… or will population press upon the limits of subsistence, as malthus taught in order to refute godwin’s optimism? …

… i think the answer to all these questions turns, in the end, upon the degree of intellectual vigor to be expected in a community which has done away with the spur of economic competition …

… will men in such a world become lazy and apathetic? will they cease to think? will those who do think find themselves confronted with an even more impenetrable wall of unreflecting conservatism than that which confronts them at present? these are important questions; for it is ultimately to science that mankind must look for their success in combating physical evils …

… if the other conditions that we have postulated can be realized, it seems almost certain that there must be less illness than there is at present …

… population will no longer be congested in slums; children will have far more of fresh air and open country; the hours of work will be only such as are wholesome, not excessive and exhausting as they are at present …

… as for the progress of science, that depends very largely upon the degree of intellectual liberty existing in the new society …

… if all science is organized and supervised by the state, it will rapidly become stereotyped and dead …

… fundamental advances will not be made, because, until they have been made, they will seem too doubtful to warrant the expenditure of public money upon them …

… authority will be in the hands of the old, especially of men who have achieved scientific eminence; such men will be hostile to those among the young who do not flatter them by agreeing with their theories …

… under a bureaucratic state socialism it is to be feared that science would soon cease to be progressive and acquired a medieval respect for authority …

… but under a freer system, which would enable all kinds of groups to employ as many men of science as they chose, and would allow the “vagabond’s wage” to those who desired to pursue some study so new as to be wholly unrecognized, there is every reason to think that science would flourish as it has never done hitherto.[see the discussion of this question in the preceding chapter.] and, if that were the case, i do not believe that any other obstacle would exist to the physical possibility of our system …

… the question of the number of hours of work necessary to produce general material comfort is partly technical, partly one of organization …

… we may assume that there would no longer be unproductive labor spent on armaments, national defense, advertisements, costly luxuries for the very rich, or any of the other futilities incidental to our competitive system …

… if each industrial guild secured for a term of years the advantages, or part of the advantages, of any new invention or methods which it introduced, it is pretty certain that every encouragement would be given to technical progress …

… the life of a discoverer or inventor is in itself agreeable: those who adopt it, as things are now, are seldom much actuated by economic motives, but rather by the interest of the work together with the hope of honor …

… and these motives would operate more widely than they do now, since fewer people would be prevented from obeying them by economic necessities …

… and there is no doubt that intellect would work more keenly and creatively in a world where instinct was less thwarted, where the joy of life was greater, and where consequently there would be more vitality in men than there is at present …

… there remains the population question, which, ever since the time of malthus, has been the last refuge of those to whom the possibility of a better world is disagreeable …

… but this question is now a very different one from what it was a hundred years ago …

… the decline of the birth-rate in all civilized countries, which is pretty certain to continue, whatever economic system is adopted, suggests that, especially when the probable effects of the war are taken into account, the population of western europe is not likely to increase very much beyond its present level, and that of america is likely only to increase through immigration …

… negroes may continue to increase in the tropics, but are not likely to be a serious menace to the white inhabitants of temperate regions …

… there remains, of course, the yellow peril; but by the time that begins to be serious it is quite likely that the birth-rate will also have begun to decline among the races of asia if not, there are other means of dealing with this question; and in any case the whole matter is too conjectural to be set up seriously as a bar to our hopes …

… i conclude that, though no certain forecast is possible, there is not any valid reason for regarding the possible increase of population as a serious obstacle to socialism …

… our discussion has led us to the belief that the communal ownership of land and capital, which constitutes the characteristic doctrine of socialism and anarchist communism, is a necessary step toward the removal of the evils from which the world suffers at present and the creation of such a society as any humane man must wish to see realized …

… but, though a necessary step, socialism alone is by no means sufficient …

… there are various forms of socialism: the form in which the state is the employer, and all who work receive wages from it, involves dangers of tyranny and interference with progress which would make it, if possible, even worse than the present regime …

… on the other hand, anarchism, which avoids the dangers of state socialism, has dangers and difficulties of its own, which make it probable that, within any reasonable period of time, it could not last long even if it were established …

… nevertheless, it remains an ideal to which we should wish to approach as nearly as possible, and which, in some distant age, we hope may be reached completely …

… syndicalism shares many of the defects of anarchism, and, like it, would prove unstable, since the need of a central government would make itself felt almost at once …

… the system we have advocated is a form of guild socialism, leaning more, perhaps, towards anarchism than the official guildsman would wholly approve …

… it is in the matters that politicians usually ignore—science and art, human relations, and the joy of life —that anarchism is strongest, and it is chiefly for the sake of these things that we included such more or less anarchist proposals as the “vagabond’s wage.” …

… it is by its effects outside economics and politics, at least as much as by effects inside them, that a social system should be judged …

… and if socialism ever comes, it is only likely to prove beneficent if noneconomic goods are valued and consciously pursued …

… the world that we must seek is a world in which the creative spirit is alive, in which life is an adventure full of joy and hope, based rather upon the impulse to construct than upon the desire to retain what we possess or to seize what is possessed by others …

… it must be a world in which affection has free play, in which love is purged of the instinct for domination, in which cruelty and envy have been dispelled by happiness and the unfettered development of all the instincts that build up life and fill it with mental delights …

… such a world is possible; it waits only for men to wish to create it …

… meantime, the world in which we exist has other aims …

… but it will pass away, burned up in the fire of its own hot passions; and from its ashes will spring a new and younger world, full of fresh hope, with the light of morning in its eyes …