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domingo, 18 de octubre de 2009

Socialism and the family


These are two papers written by Mr. H. G. Wells. The
first was read to the Fabian Society in October, 1906, under
the title of " Socialism and the Middle Classes.' 1 The
second appeared first in the " Independent Review.'*
Together they state pretty completely the attitude of Modern
Socialism to family life.


IN this paper I am anxious to define and
discuss the relationship between three
distinct things :

(1) Socialism, i.e. a large, a slowly elabor-
ating conception of a sane and organized J
state and moral culture to replace our present
chaotic way of living,

(2) the Socialist movement, and

(3) the Middle Classes.

The first is to me a very great thing in-
deed, the jorm and substance of my ideal lif e,
and all the religion I possess. Let me make




my confession plain and clear. I am, by a
sort of predestination, a Socialist. I perceive,
I cannot help talking and writing about
Socialism, and shaping and forwarding So*-
cialism. I am one of a succession — one of a *
growing multitude of witnesses, who will
continue. It does not — in the larger sense —
matter how many generations of us must -'
toil and testify. It does not matter, except
. as our individual concern, how individually .
we succeed or fail, what blunders we make;
what thwartings we encounter, what follies
and inadequacies darken our private hopes
and level our personal imaginations to the
dust. We have the light. We know what
we are for, and that the light that now glim-
mers so dimly through us must in the end
prevail./To us Socialism is no piece of politi-
V cal strategy, no economic opposition of class
to class ; it is a plan for the reconstruction
of human life, for the replacement of a dis-
order by order, for the making of a state in
which mankind shall live bravely and bea»ti-
fully beyond our present unaginingy


So, largely, I conceive of Socialism. But
Socialism and the Socialist movement are twoj
fc yer^different things. The Socialist movement
^is an itemm^rallogether different scale.

I must confess that the organized Socialist
jl movement, all the Socialist societies and
leagues and federations and parties together
in England, seem to me no more than'' the
rustling hem of the garment of advancing
Socialism. For some years the whole organ-
ized Socialist movement seemed to me so
/unimportant, so irrelevant to that progressive
development and realization of a great system
of ideas which is Socialism, that, like very
many other Socialists, I did not trouble to
connect myself with any section of it.fl
don'trbelieve that the Socialist idea is as yet
nearly enough thought out and elaborated for
very much of it to be realized of set intention
now^y Socialism is still essentially education,
is study, is a renewal, a prof ound change in
the circle of human thought and motive.
Tfee institutions which will express this
changed circle of thought are important in-


xleed, but with a secondary importance.
Socialism is the still incomplete, the still
sketchy and sketchily indicative plan of a
new life for the world, a new and better way
of living, a change of spirit and substance
from the narrow selfishness «uid immediacy
and cowardly formalism, the chaotic life of
individual accident that is human life to-day,
a life that dooms itself and all of us to th wait-
ings and misery. Socialism, therefore, is
to be served by thought and expression, in
art, in literature, in scientific statement and
life, in discussion and the quickening exercise
of propaganda ; but the Socialist movement,
as one finds it, is too often no more than a
hasty attempt to secure a premature realiza-
tion of some fragmentary suggestion ef this
great, still plastic design, to the neglect of
all other of its- aspects. As my own sense of
Socialism has enlarged and intensified, I have
become more and more impressed by the
imperfect Socialism of almost every Socialist
movement that is going on ; by its nece^arily
partial and limited projection from thdxlotted


cajits>knd habituations of things as they are.
Some Socialists quarrel with the Liberal
Party and with the Socialist section of the
Liberal Party because it does not go far
enough, because it does not embody a Social-
ism uncompromising and complete, because
it has not definitely cut itself off from the
old traditions, the discredited formulae, that
jeryed before the coming of our great idea.
They are blind to the fact that there is no
organized Socialism at present, uncompromis-
ing and complete, and the Socialists who flat-
ter themselves they represent as much are
merely those who have either never grasped
or who have forgotten the full implications
of Socialism^/ They are just a little step
further, a very little step further in their
departure from existing prejudices, in their
subservience to existing institutions and exist-
ing imperatives.

Take, for example, the Socialism that is
popular in New York and Chicago and Ger-
many, and that finds its exponents here
typically in the inferior ranks of the Social


Democratic Federation-/the crude Marxite
teaching. It still awaits permeation by true
Socialist conceptions. It is a version of life
adapted essentially to the imagination of the
working wage earner, and limited by his
limitations. It is the vision of poor souls
perennially reminded each Monday morning
of the shadow and irksomeness of life, per-
petually recalled each Saturday pay time to
a watery gleam of all that life might be. J One
of the numberless relationships oiAne, the
relationship of capital or the employer to the
employed, is made to overshadow all other
Vrelations. Get that put right, " expropriate
the idle rich," transfer all capital to the
State, make the State the humane, amenable,
universal employer — that, to innumerable 4
Socialist working men, is the horizon. The '.
rest he sees in the forms of the life to which
he is accustomed. A little home, a trifle
larger and brighter than his present one, a
more abounding table, a cheerful missus x
released from factory work and unhealthy
competition with men, a bright and healthy



family going to and fro to the public free I
schools, free medical attendance, universal
State insurance for old age, free trams to
Burnham Beeches, shorter hours of work and
higher wages, no dismissals, no hunting for
work that eludes one. All the wide world of
collateral consequences that will follow from
the cessation of the system of employment
under conditions of individualist competition,
he does not seem to apprehend. Such phrases
as the citizenship and economigjndependence
of women leave him cold./rhat Socialism
has anything to say about the economic
basis of the family, about the social aspects
of marriage, about the rights of the parent,
doesn't, I think, at first occur to him at all.
Nor does he realize for a long time that for
Socialism and under Socialist institutions
will there be needed any system of self -disci-
pline, any rules of conduct further than the
natural impulses and the native goodness of
maxu^Ale takes just that aspect oi Socialism
that appeals to him, and that alone, and it is
only exceptionally at present, ajid very slowly,


as a process of slow habituation and enlarge-
ment, that he comes to any wider conceptioris.
And, as a consequence, directly we pass to
any social type to which weekly or monthly
wages is not the dominating fact of life, and
a simple unthinking faith in Yes or No deci-
sions its dominant habit, the phrasings, the
formulae, the statements and the discreet
omissions of the leaders of working-class
Socialism fail to appeal.

Socialism commends itself to a considerable
proportion of the working class simply as a
beneficial change in the conditions of work
and employment ; to other sections of the
community it presents itself through equally
limited aspects. Certain ways of living it
seems to condemn root and branch. To the
stockbroker and many other sorts of trader,
to the usurer, to the company promoter, to
the retired butler who has invested his money
in " weekly property," for example, it stands
for the dissolution of all comprehensible social
order. It simply repudiates the way of living
to which they have committed themselves.


And to great numbers of agreeable unintelli-
gent people who live upon rent and interest
it is a projected severing of every bond that
holds man and man, that keeps servants
respectful, tradespeople in order, railways and
hotels available, and the whole procedure of
life going. They class Socialism and Anarch-
ism together in a way that is as logically
unjust as it is from their point of view justi-
fiable. Both cults have this in common, that
they threaten to wipe out the whole world of
the villa resident. And this sense of a threat-
ened profound disturbance in their way of
living pervades the attitude of nearly all the
comfortable classes towards Socialism.

When we discuss the attitude of the middle
classes to Socialism we must always bear this
keener sense of disconcerting changes in
mind. It is a part of the queer composition
of the human animal that its desire for hap-
penings is balanced by an instinctive dread
of real changes of condition. People, especi-
ally fully adult people, are creatures who
have grown accustomed to a certain method


of costume, a certain system of meals, a cer-
tain dietary, certain apparatus, a certain
routine. They know their way about in
life as it is. They would be lost in Utopia*
Quite little alterations "put them out/' as
they say — create a distressing feeling of
inadequacy, make them " feel odd." What-
ever little enlargements they may contem-
plate in reverie, in practice they know they
want nothing except, perhaps, a little more
of all the things they like. That's the way
wiui mosToF us, anyiiow. To make a fairly
complete intimation of the nature of Socialism
to an average, decent, middle-aged, middle-
class person would be to arouse emotions
of unspeakable terror, if the whole project
didn't also naturally clothe itself in a quality
of incredibility. And you will find, as a
matter of fact, that your middle-class Socialists
belong to two classes ; either they are amiable
people who don't understand a bit what
Socialism is — and some of the most ardent
and serviceable workers for Socialism are of
this type — or they are people so unhappily


situated and so unfortunate, or else of such
exceptional imaginative force or training
(which is itself, perhaps, from the practical
point of view, a misfortune), as to be capable
of a discontent with life as it is, so passionate
as to outweigh instinctive timidities and
discretions. Rest assured that/to make any
large section of the comfortable upper middle
class Socialists, you must 'either misrepresents
and more particularl y jinder-repr esent Social-
ism, or you must quicken their imaginations
far beyond the present state of affairs^

Some of the most ardent and serviceable
of Socialist workers, I have said, are of the
former type. For the most part they are
philanthropic people, or women and men of
the managing temperament shocked into a
sort of Socialism by the more glaring and
melodramatic cruelties of our universally
cruel social system. They are t he district
visitors of Soci a lism. ^ Th ey do not rea lize
that Socialism demands anyj :hange in them-
X selves or in their way of living, they per-
ceive in it simply a way of hope from the



failures of vulgar charity. Chiefly they assail
the bad conditions of life of the lower classes.
They don't for a moment envisage a time
when there will be no lower classes — that
is beyond them altogether. Much less can
they conceive of a time when there will be no
governing class distinctively in possession of
means. They exact respect from inferiors ;
no touch of Socialist warmth or light qualifies
their arrogant manners. Perhaps they, too,
broaden their conception of Socialism as time
goes on, but so it begins with them. Now
to make Socialists of this type the appeal
is a very different one from the talk of class
war and expropriation, and the abolition of
the idle rich, wh ich is so serviceable with a
roomful of swe ated work ers^ These people"
are moved partly by pity, and the best of
them by a hatred for the squalor and waste
of the present regime. Talk of the expro-
priated rich simply raises in their minds
painful and disconcerting images of distres sed
g entlewome n. But one necessary aspect of
the Socialist's vision that sends the coldest


shiver down the spine of the working class
Socialist is extraordinarily alluring and con-
genial to them, namely, the official and
organized side. They love to think of houses
and factories open to competent inspection,
of municipal milk, sealed and certificated for
every cottager's baby, of old age pensions
and a high and rising minimum standard of
life. They have an admirable sense of sani-
tation. They are the philanthropic and ad-
ministrative Socialists as distinguished from
the economic revolutionaries.

This class of Socialist passes insensibly into
the merely Socialistic philanthropist of the
wealthy middle class to whom we owe so
much helpful expenditure upon experiments
in housing, in museum and school construc-
tjOH^in educational endowment, and so forth.
Their activities are not for one moment to
be despised ; they are a constant demon-
stration to dull and sceptical persons that
things may be different, better, prettier,
kindlier and more orderly. Many people
impervious to tracts can be set thinking by



a model village or a model factory. How-
ever petty much of what they achieve may
be, there it is achieved — in legislation, in
bricks and mortar. Among other things,
these administrative Socialists serve to cor-
rect the very perceptible tendency of most
w orking men Socialists to sentimental anar-
tliism in regard to questions of control and
conduct, a tendency due entirely to their
Social and administrative inexperience.

For more thorough-going Socialism among
the middle classes one must look to those
strata and sections in which quickened imagi-
nations and unsettling influences are to be
found. The artist should be extraordinarily
attracted by Socialism. A mind habitually^
directed to beauty as an end must necessarily
be exceptionally awake to the ugly conges- "
tions of our contemporary civilization, to
the prolific futile production of gawky, ill- .
mannered, jostling new things, to the shabby
profit-seeking that ousts beauty from life and
poisons every enterprise of man. And not
only artistic work, but the better sort of



scientific investigation, the better sort of
literary work, and every occupation that
involves the persistent free use of thought,
must bring the mind more and more towards
the definite recognition of our social incoher-
ence and waste. But this by no means
exhausts the professions that ought to have
a distinct bias for Socialism, The engineer,
the architect, the mechanical inventor, the
industrial organizer, and every sort of maker
must be at one in their desire for emanci-
pation from servitude to the promoter, the
trader, the lawyer, and the forestaller, from
the perpetually recurring obstruction of the
claim of the private proprietor to every large
and hopeful enterprise, and ready to respond
to the immense creative element in the
Socialist idea. Only it is th^tjar eative jg e-
ment which has so far found least expression
-in Socialist literature, which appears neither
in the " class war " literature of the working
class Socialist nor the litigious, inspecting,
fining, and regulating tractiTand proposals
of the ajn^str^t iye S ocialist. To too many


of these men in the constructive professions
the substitution of a Socialist State for our
present economic method carries with it no
promise of emancipation at all. They think
that to work for the public controls which
an advance towards Socialism would set up,
would be worse for them and for all that they
desire to do than the profit-seeking, expense-
cutting, mercenary making of the present

This is, I believe, a temporary and alter-
able state, contrary to the essential and per-
manent spirit of those engaged in constructive
work. It is due very largely to the many
misrepresentations and partial statements
of Socialism that have rendered it palatable
and assimilable to the working men and the
administrative Socialist. Socialism has been
presented on the one hand as a scheme of
expropriation to a damoroujjpopular govern-
ment of working men/Tar more ignorant
and incapable of management than a share-
holders' meetingyAnd, on the other, as a
scheme for the encouragement of stupid little


municipal authorities of the contemporary
type in impossible business undertakings
under the guidance of fussy, energ etic,,
minded and totally unscientific instigators.
Except for the quite recent development of *
Socialist thought that is now being embodied
in the New Heptarchy Series of the Fabian
Society, scarcely anything has been done to
dispel these reasonable dreads. I should
think that from the point of view of Socialist
propaganda, the time is altogether ripe now for
a fresh and more vigorous insistence upon
the materi^^CTeative aspect of the vision of
Socialism, anaspe^^

more cardinal and characteristic than any
aspect that has hitherto been presented sys-
tematically to the world. An enormous re-
building, remaking, an^Kgansion is integral
in the Socialist dreamy We want to get the
land out of the control of the private owners
among whom it is cut up, we want to get
houses, factories, railways, mines, farms
out of the dispersed management of their
proprietors, not in order to secure their


present profits and hinder development, but
in order to rearrange these things in a saner
and finer fashion. An immense work of
replanning, rebuilding, redistributing lies in
the foreground of the Socialist vista. We
contemplatean enormous clearance of exist-
ing things/ / We want an unfettered hand to
make beautiful and convenient homes, splen-
did cities, noiseless great highways, beautiful
bridges, clean, swift and splendid electric
railways ; we are inspired by a faith in the
coming of clean, wide and simple methods
of agricultural production. But it is only
now that Socialism is beginning to be put in
these terms. So put it, and the engineer and
the architect and the scientific organizer,
agricultural or industrial — all the best of
them, anyhow — will find it correspond extra-
ordinarily to their way of thinking.

Not all of them, of course. A middle-aged
architect with a note-book full of bits of
gothic, and a reputation for suburban churches,
or full of bits of " Queen Anne " and a con-
nexion among villa builders, or an engineer


paterfamilias who has tasted blood as an
expert witness, aren't to be won by these
suggestions. They're part of things as they
axe. But that is only a temporary incon-
venience to Socialism. The young men do
respond, and they are the future and what
Socialism needs.

And there's another great constructive
profession that should be Socialist altogether,
and that is the medical profession. Espe-
cially does Socialism claim the younger men
who haven't yet sunken from the hospitals
J ^ the tradin g individualis m of a practice.
And then there are tlie teachers, the set
masters and schoolmistresses. The idea of
a great organized making is innate in the
quality of their professions ; the making
of sound bodies and healthy conditions, the
making of informed and disciplined minds.
The methods of the profit-seeking school-
master, the practice-buying doctor are im-
posed upon them by the necessities of an
individualist world. Both these two great
professions present nowadays, side by side>


two types — the new type, highly qualified,
official, administrative, scientific, public-
spirited ; the old type, capitalistic, with a
pretentious house and equipment, the doctor
with a brougham, and a dispensary, the
schoolmaster or schoolmistress with some
huge old stucco house converted by jerry-
built extensions to meet scholastic needs.
Who would not rather, one may ask, choose
the former way who was not already irre-
vocably committed to the latter ? Well, I
with my Socialist dreams would like to answer
" No one," but I'm learning to check my
buoyant optimism. The imagination and
science in a young man may cry out for the
public position, for the valiant public work,
fpr the hard, honourable, creative years.
He may sit with his fellow-students and his
fellow- workers in a nocturnal cloud of tobacco
smoke and fine talk, and vow himself to
research and the creative world state. In the
morning he will think he has dreamed ; he
will recall what the world is, what Socialists
are, what he has heard wild Socialists say



about science and his art. He will elect
for the real world and a practice.

Something more than a failure to state
the constructive and educational quality in
Socialism on the part of its exponents has to
be admitted in accounting for the unnatural*
want of sympathetic co-operation between
them and the bulk of these noble professions.
I cannot disguise from myself certain curiously
irrelevant strands that have interwoven with
the partial statements of Socialism current
in England, and which it is high- time, I
think, for Socialists to repudiate. Socialism
is something more than an empty criticisiji
of our contemporary disorder and waste of
life, it is a great intimation of construction,
organization, science and education. But
concurrently with its extension and its de-
structive criticism of the capitalistic individ-
ualism of to-day, there has been another
movement, essentially an anarchist move-
jnent, hostile to machinery and apparatus,
hostile to medical science, hostile to order,
lostile to education, Y"""Rousseauite move-


ment in the direction of a sentimentalized
naturalism, a Tolstoyan movement in the
direction of a non-resisting pietism^ which
has not simply been confused with the
Socialist movement, but has really affected
and interwoven with it. It is not simply
that wherever discussion and destructive
criticism of the present conventional bases
of society occur, both ways of thinking crop
up together; they occur all too often a*~
alternating phases in the same individuals
Few of us are so clear-headed as to be free
from profound self-contradictions, flso that
it is no great marvel, after all, if tjie presen-
tation of Socialism has got mixed up with
Return-to-Nature ideas, with proposals for
living in a state of unregulated primitive
virtue in purely hand-made houses, upon
rain water and uncooked fruit. We Socialists
have to disentangle it from these things now.
We have to disavow, with all necessary
emphasis, that gibing at science and the
medical profession, at schools and books and
the necessary apparatus for collective think-


ing, which has been one of our little orna-
mental weaknesses in the past^^That has,
I know, kept a very considerable number of
intelligent professional men from inquiring
further into Socialist theories and teachings
As a consequence there are, especially in the
medical profession, quite a number of uncon-
scious Socialists, men, often with a far clearer
grip uponjh^rentral ide^s^ofSocialism than
many of its prole35e3«qx>nents, who _have
worked out these ideas for themselves, and
are incredulous to hear them called Socialistic!.
So much for the specifically creative and
imagination-using professions. Throughout
the whole range of the more educated middle
classes, however, there are causes at work
that necessarily stimulate thought towards
Socialism, that engender scepticisms, promote
inquiries leading towards what is at present
the least expounded of all aspects of Socialism
—the relation of Socialism to the institution
of the Family. ... —

The Fa mily, and not the individual, js stilly
the unit in contemporary civilization, and


indeed in nearly all social systems that have
ever existed. The adult male, the head of
the family, has been the citizen, the sole
representative of the family in the State.
About him have been grouped his one or
more wives, his children, his dependents.
His position towards them has always been
— is still in many respects to this day — one
of ownership. He was owner of them all,
and in many of the less sophisticated systems
of the past his ownership was as complete
as over his horse and house and land — more
complete than over his land. He could sell
his children into slavery, barter his wives.
There has been a secular mitigation. of the
rights of this sort of private property ; the
establishment, of monogamy, for instance,
did for the family what President Roosevelt's
proposed legislation against large accumu-
lations might do for industrial enterprises,
\>ut to this day in our own coiQinunity, for
all such mitigations and many euphe misms,
the ownership of the head of the family IS
still a manifest fact. He votes. He keeps



and protects. He determines the education
and professions of his children- He is entitled
to monetary consolation for any infringe-
ment of his rights over wife or daughter.
Every intelligent woman understands that, as
a matter of hard fact, beneath all the civilities
of to-day, she is actual or potential property,
and has to treat herself and keep herself as
that. She may by force or subtlety turn
her chains into weapons, she may succeed in
exacting a reciprocal property in a man, the
fact remains fundamental that she is either
isolated or owned.

But I need not go on writing facts with
which every one is acquainted. My con-
cern now is to point out that Socialism
idiates the private ownership of the head
of the family as completely as it repudiates
any oth er sort of private ownership. Social-
Ismlnvolves^ of

women, their economic independence of men,
and all the personal freedom that follows that,
4t intervenes jfretween the children and the
parents, claiming to support them, protect


them, and educate them for its own ampler
purposes. Socialism, in fact, is the S^ate
family . y OThe old family of the private indi-
vidual must vanish before it, just as the old
water' works of private enterprise, or the old
v*gas company. They are incompatible with
/ ^it. Socialism aqqaiTq flip ^^"Tllp hant egotism
•■ of the famil y to-day, just as Chnstiamty
did in its earlier and more vital centuries.
So far as English Socialism is concerned
(and the thing is still more the case in America)
I must confess that the assault has displayed
a quite extraordinary instinct for taking
cover, but that is a question of tactics rather
than of essential antagonism.

It is possible to believe that so far as the
middle classes are concerned t his dis c retion
has beencarri^^together too far. Social-
ists would have forwarded their cause better if
they had been more outspoken. It has led to
preposterous misunderstandings ; and among
others to the charge that Socialism implied
free-love. . . . The middle^class family, I
am increasingly convinced, is a group in a


state of tension. ( I believe that a modest
but complete statement of the Socialist criti-
cism of the family and the proposed Socialist
substitute for the conventional rela tionsh ips
might awaken extraordinary responses at the
present time^The great terror of the eighties
and early nineties that crushed all reasonable
discussion of sexual relationship is, I believe,
altogether over.

The whole of the present system is riddled
with discontents. One factor is the enhanced
sense of the child in middle-class life : the old
sentiment was that the parent owned the
child, the new is t hat the children own the
arents. There has come an intensified re-
spect for children, an immense increase in the
trouble, attention and expenditure devoted
to them — and a very natural and human
accompaniment in the huge fall in the middle-
class birth-rate. It is felt that to bear and
rear children is the most noble and splendid
C and responsible thing in life, and an iijcreasing
number of people modestly evade it. People
see more clearly the social service of paren-


tage, and are more and more inclined to
demand a recognition from the State for this
service. The middle-class parent might
conceivably be horrified if you suggested the
State^should pay him for his offspring f but
he would have no objection whatever to
being indirectly and partially paid by a
differential income tax graduated in relation
to the size of his family.
With this increased sense of the virtue and

% public service of parentage there has gone on
a great development of the criticism of schools
and fl&aching. The more educated middle-
class parent has become an amateur educa-
tionist of considerable virulence. He sees
more and more distinctly the inadequacy of
his own private attempts to educate, the
necessa ry charlata nry and insufficiency of the
private a dventu re school-THe finds much to
envy in~the elementary schools. If he is
ignorant and* shortsighted, he joins in the
bitter cry of the middle classes, and clamours

' against the pampering of the working class,
and the rising of the rates which renders his


efforts to educate his own children more diffi-
cult. But a more intelligent type of middle-
class parent sends his boy in for public scholar-
ships, sets to work to get educational endow-
ment for his own class also, and makes another
step towards Socialism. Moreover, the in-
creasing intelligence of the middle-class parent
and the st eady swallowing^ up of the smaller ^
capitalists a nd smaller sha reholders b y the
larger enterprises and fortunes, alike bring
home to him the temporary and uncertain
nature of the advantages his private eiterts
give his children over those of the working
man. He sees no more than a brief respite
for them against the economic cataclysms of
the coming time. He is more and more alive
to the presence of secular change in the world.
He does not feel sure his sons will carry on the
old business, continue the old practice, fie
begins to appreciate the concentration of
wealth. The secular development of the
capitalistic system robs him mot e and more of
his sense of securities. He is uneasier than
he used to be about investments. He no


longer has that complete faith in private
insurance companies that once sustained him.
His mind broadens out to State insurance
as to State education. He is fa^ more amen-
able than he used to be to the idea that the
only way to provide for one's own posterity is
to provide for every one's posterity, to merge
parentage in citizenship. The family of the
middle-class man which fights for itself alone,
is lost.

Socialism comes into the middle-class family
offering education, offering assurances for the
future, and only very distantly intimating
the price to be paid in weakened individual
control. But far profounder disintegrations
are at work. The internal character of the
middle-class family is altering fundamentally
with the general growth of intelligence, with
the higher education of women, with the
comings and goings for this purpose and that,
the bicycles and games, the enlarged social
-ajroetites and opportunities of a new time.
The more or less conscious Strike against
Parentage is having far-reaching effects. The


family proper becomes a numerically smaller
group. Enormous numbers of childless fami-
lies appear ; the middle-class family with two,
or at most three, children is the rule rather
than the exception in certain strata. This
makes the family a less various and interest-
ing group, with a smaller demand for atten-
tion, emotion, effort. Quite apart from the
general mental quickening of the time, it
leaves more and more social energy, curiosity,
enterprise free, either to fret within the narrow
family limits or to go outside them. The
Strike against Parentage takes among other
forms the form of a .strike against marriage ;
great numbers of men and women stand out
from a relationship which every year seems
more limiting and (except for its temporary
passional aspect) purposeless. The number
of intelligent and healthy women inadequately
employed, who either idle as wives in atten-
uated modern families, childless or with an
insufficient child or so, or who work for an
unsatisfying subsistence as unmarried women,
increases. To them the complete concep-


tions of Socialism should have an extra-
ordinary appeal.

The appearance of the feminine mind and
soul in the world as something distinct and
self-conscious, is the appearance of a distinct
new engine of criticism against the individ-
ualist family, against this dwindling property
of the once-ascendant male — who no longer
effectually rules, no longer, in many cases,
either protects or sustains, who all too often
is so shorn of his beams as to be but a vexa-
tious power of jealous restriction and inter-
ference upon his wife and children. The
educated girl resents the proposed loss of her
freedom in marriage, the educated married
woman realizes as well as resents the losses
• of scope and interest marriage entails. Ai it
were not for the economic disadvantages that
make intelligent women dread a solitary old
age in bitter poverty, vast numbers of w omen
who arFmsuried to-day would have remained
single independent women. This discontent
of women is a huge available force for Social-
ism. The wife of the past was, to put it


brutally/caught younger — so young that she
had had no time to think — she began forthwith
to bear babies, rear babies, and (which she
did in a quite proportionate profusion) bury
babies — she never had a moment to think.
Now the wife with double the leisure, double
the education and half the emotional scope
of her worn prolific grandmother, sits at home
and thinks things over. You find her letting
herself loose in clubs* in literary enterprises,
in schemes for joint households to relieve her-
self a nd her husband from the continuation of
"ir^duoiogue th at lias exhausted^its interest.
The husband finds himself divided between
his sympathetic sense of tedium and the pro-
prietary tradition in which we live.

For these tensions in the disintegration of
the old proprietary family no remedy offers
itself to-day except the solutions that arise
as essential portions of the Socialist scheme.
The alternative is hypocrisy and disorder.

There is yet another and still more effec-
tual system of strains at work in the existing
social unit, and that is the strain between


parents and children. That has always
existed, /itis one of our most transparent
sentimental pretences that there is any
natural subordination of son to father, of
daughter to mother^/Vs a matter of fact
a good deal of naf ural antagonism aggea^
aTthe adolescence of the young. Something
very TDEeTan instmct stirs in them, to rebel,
to go out. The old habits of solicitude,
control and restraint in the parent become
more and more hampering, irksome, and
exasperating to the offspring. The middle-
class son gets away in spirit and in fact to
school, to college, to business — his sister
does all she can to follow his excellent example.
In a world with vast moral and intellectual
changes in progress the intelligent young
find the personal struggle for independence
intensified by a conflict of ideas. The modern
tendency to cherish and preserve youthful-
ness ; the keener desire for living that pre-
vents women getting fat and ugly, and men
bald and incompetent by forty-five, is another
dissolvent factor among these stresses. The


daughter is not only restrained by her
mother's precepts, but inflamed by her ex-
ample. The son finds his father's coevals
treating him as a contemporary. X

Well, into these conflicts and disorders
comes Socialism, and Socialism alone, to
explain, to justify, to propose new conven-
tions and new interpretations of relationship,
to champion the reasonable claims of the
young, to mitigate the thwarted ownership
of the old. Socialism comes, constructive
amid the wreckage.

Let me at this point, and before I conclude,
put one thpg with the utmost possible
clearness, ^he Socialist does not propose to
destroy something that conceivably would
otherwise last for ever, when he proposes
a new set of institutions, and a new system
of conduct to replace the old pr opriet;
famil y. He no more regards the ins&fution of
marriage as a permanent thing than he regards
a state of compeHHve industrialism as a
permanent thing. In the economic sphere,
quite apart from any Socialist ideas or


SociahsF^activi ties, jt i s manifest that
competitive^ iijdividualism ""Ttestroys itself.
This was reasoned out long ago in the Capital
of Marx ; it is receiving its first gigantic
practical demonstration in the United States
ofA merica. Whatever happens, we believe
tKatcompetitive industrialism will change
and end — and we Socialists at least believe
that the alternative to some form of Socialism
is tyranny and social ruin. So, too, in the
social sphere, whether Socialists succeed
altogether or fail altogether, or in whatever
measure they succeed or fail, it does not alter
Iftie fact that the family is weakening, dwind-
ling, breaking up, disintegrating. The alter-
native to a planned and organized Socialism
is not the maintenance of the present system,
but its logical development, and that is all
too plainly a growing complication of pretends
as the old imperatives weaken and fade. ^We
already live in a world of stupendous hypo-
crisies, a world wherein rakes and rascals
champion the sacred institution of the family,
and a network of sexual secrets, vaguely


suspected, disagreeably present, and only
half-concealed, pervades every social group
one enters. Cynicism, a dismal swamp of
base intrigues, cruel restrictions and habitual
insincerities, is the manifest destiny of the
present rigime unless we make some revo-
lutionary turn. It cannot work out its own
salvation without the profoundest change in
its determining ideas. And what change in
those ideas is offered except by the Socialist ?
In relation to all these most intimate aspects
of lif e, Socialism, and Socialism alone, supplies
the hope and suggestions of clean and prac-
ticable solutions. So far, Socialists have either
been silent or vague^Ar— 1^
in relation tc y this central tan gle of life^ To
begin to speak plainly among theTsilences
and suppressions, the " find out for your-
self " of the current time, would be, I think,
to grip the middle-class woman and the
middle-class youth of both sexes with an
extraordinary new interest/'to i rradiate the
dissensions of every bored couple and every
•^^^squaESlmg family with broaH^onceptions,
<■* ' /



and enormously to enlarge and stimulate the
Socialist movement at the present time.

Here ends the paper read by Mr. WeUs to the Fabian
Society, but in this that follows he sets out the Socialist
conception of the new relations that must follow the old
much more clearly.


I DO not think that the general reader at
all appreciates the steady develop-
ment of Socialist thought during the past
two decades. Directly one comes into close
contact with contemporary Socialists one
discovers in all sorts of ways the evidence of
the synthetic work that has been and still is
in process, the clearing and growth of guid-
ing ideas, the qualification of primitive state-
ments, the consideration, the adaptation to
meet this or that adequate criticism. A
quarter of a century ago Socialism was still
to a very large extent a doctrine of negative,
a passionate criticism and denial of the
theories that sustained and excused the
injustices of contemporary life, a repudiation
of social and economic methods then held to
be indispensable and in the very nature of
things. Its positive proposals were as sketchy


as they were enthusiastic, sketchy and, it
must be confessed, fluctuating. One needs
to turn back to the files of its every-day
publications to realize the progress that has
been made, the secular emergence of a con-
sistent and continually more nearly com-
plete and directive scheme of social recon-
struction from the chaotic propositions and
hopes and denials of the earlier time. In no
direction is this more evident than in the
steady clearing of the Socialistic attitude
towards marriage and the family; in the
disentanglement of Socialism from much
idealist and irrelevant matter with which it
was once closely associated and encumbered,
in the orderly incorporation of conceptions
that at one time seemed not only outside of,
but hostile to, Socialist ways of thinking. . . .
Nothing^could have brought out this more
clearly than the comical attempt made re-
cently by the Daily Express to suggest that
Mr. Keir Hardie and the party he leads was
mysteriously involved with my unfortunate
self in teaching Free Love to respectable


working men. When my heat and indig-
nation had presently a little subsided, I found
myself asking how it came about, that any
one could bring together such discrepant
things as the orderly proposals of Socialism
as they shape themselves in the projects of
Mr. Keir Hardie, let us say, and the doctrine
of sexudgo-as-you-please. And so inquiring,
my mind driff^"baclTtb the days — it is a
hazy period to me — when Godwin and Mary
Wollstonecraft were alive, when Shelley ex-
plained his views to Harriet. These people
were in a sort of way Socialists ; Palaeo-
Socialists. They professed also verf*~lKs-
tinctljTTtiat uncovenanted freedom of action
in sexual matters which is, I suppose, Free
Love. Indeed, so near are we to these old
confusions that there is still, Ij find, one
Palaeo-Socialist surviving — Mr. Belfort Bax.
p Inthat large undifferentiated past, all sorts
of ideas, as yet too ill defined to eliminate
one another, socialist ideas, communist ideas,
anarchist ideas, Rousseauism, seethed together
and seemed akin. In a sense they were akin


in that they were the condemnation of the
existing order, the outcome of the destructive
criticism of this of its aspects or that. They
were all breccia. But in all else, directly
they began to find definite statement, they
were flatly contradictory one with another.
"* Or at least they stood upon different levels
of assumption and application.

The formulae of Anarchism and Socialism
4re, no doubt, almost diametrically opposed ;
| Anarchism denies government, Socialism
1 would concentrate all controls in the State >
yet it is after all possible in different relations
and different aspects to entertain the two.
When one comes to dreams, when one tries
to imagine one's finest sort of people, one
must surely imagine them too fine for con-
trol and prohibitions, doing right by a sort
of inner impulse, " above the Law." One's
^dreamland perfection is Anarchy — just as no
one would imagine a policeman (or for the
matter of that a drain-pipe) in Heaven.
But come down to earth, to men the de-
scendants of apes, to men competing to live,


and passionately jealous and energetic, and
for the highways and market-places of life at
any rate, one asks for law and convention.
In Heayen or any Perfection there will be
f no Socialism , just as there will be no Bimet-^
/^^allism; there is the sphere of communism, an-
archism, universal love and universal service,
/ylt is in the workaday world of limited and ;
egotistical souls that Socialism has its place.
All men who dream at all of noble things are
Anarchists in their dreams, and half at least of
the people who are much in love, I suppose,
want to be this much Anarchistic that they
do not want to feel under a law or compulsion
one with another. They may want to possess,
they may want to be wholly possessed, but
they do not want a law court or public
opinion to protect that possession as a u right."
But it's still not clearly recognized how
distinct are the spheres of Anarchism and
Socialism. • The last instance of this con-
fusion that has seriously affected the common
idea of the Socialist was as recent as the late
Mr. Grant Allen. He was not, I think, even


in his time a very representative Socialist,
but certainly he did present, as if it were a
counsel of perfection for this harsh and grimy
world, something very like reckless abandon-
ment to the passion or mood of the moment.
I doubt if he would have found a dozen sup-
porter in the Fabian Society in his own time.
I should think his teaching would Eave ap-
pealed far more powerfully to extreme indivi-
dualists of the type of Mr. Auberon Herbert.
However that may be, I do not think there
is at present among English and American
Socialists any representative .figure at all
counseling Free Lo ve._ The modern tend-
ency is all towards an amou nt of control o ver
the function of reproduction, if anything, in
excess j>f that exercised by the State and
public usage tcniay. Let me make a brief^
comparison oi existing conditions with 'what
I believe to be the ideals of most of my fellow
Socialists in this matter, and the reader can
then judge for himself between the two systems
of intervention.

And first let me run over the outline of the


thing we are most likely to forget and have
wrong in such a discussion, the thing
directly under our noses, the thing that is.
People have an odd way of assuming in such
a comparison that we are living under an
obligation to conform to the moral code of
the Christian church at the present time.
As a matter of fact we are living in an epoch
of extraordinary freedom in sexual matters,
mitigated only by certain economic impera-
tives. Anti-socialist writers have a way of
pretending that Socialists want to make
Free Love possible, while in reality Free
Love is open to any solvent person to-day.
People who do not want to marry are as free
as air to come together and part again as they
choose, there is no law to prevent them, the
State taKes it out~6f Their Children ~ witir a -
certain mild malignancy — that is all. Married
people are equally free, saving certain limited
proprietary claims upon one another, claims
that can always be met by the payment of
damages. The restraints are purely restraints
of opinion, that Would be aspowerful tomorrow


if legal marriage was altogether abolished.
There was a time, no doubt, when there
were actual legal punishments for unchastity
in women, but that time has gone, it might
seem, for ever. Our State retains only, from
an age^ thaTTheld mercantile Methods in less
honour, a certain habit of persecuting women
who sell themselves by retail for money,
but this is done in the name of public order
and not on account of the act. Such a woman
must exact cash payments, she cannot recover
debts, she is placed at a ridiculous disadvan-
tage towards her landlord (which makes
accommodating her peculiarly lucrative), and
she is exposed to various inconveniences of
street regulation and status that must ulti-
matel} Mgrrupt any jw lice force in the w orld
— for all that she seems to continue in the
land with a certain air of prosperity. Be-
yond that our control between man and
woman is nil. Our society to-day has in
fact no complete system of sexual morals at
all. It has the remains of a system.
It has the remains of a monogamic pat-


riarchal system, in which a responsible man J
owned nearly absolutely wife and offspring.
All its laws and sentiments alike are derived
from the reduction and qualification of that.
These are not the pretensions indeed of the
present system such as it is, but they are the
facts. And even the present disorder, one
gathers, is unstable. One hears on every
hand of its further decadence. From Father
Vaughan to President Roosevelt, and volley-
ing from the whole bench of bishops, comes
the witness to that. Not only the old breaches
grow wider and more frequent, but in the
very penetralia of the family the decay goes
on. The birth-rate falls — and falls. The
family fails more and more in its essential l
object. This is a process absolutely inde-
L pe ndent o f any Socialist propa ganda; it is
parf oi the normal developments the exist-
ing social and economic system. It makes
for sterilization, for furtive wantonness and
dishonour. The existing system produces
no remedies at all. Prominent people break
out ever and again into vehement scoldings



of this phenomenon ; the newspapers aud
magazines re-echo " Race Suicide/' but there
is no sign whatever in the statistical curves
of the smallest decimal per cent, of response
to these exhortations.

Our existing sexual order is a system in
decay. What are the alternatives to its
steady process of collapse ? That is the
question v,we have to ask ourselves. To
heap foul abuse, as many quite honest but
terror-stricken people seem disposed to do,
on any one who attempts to discuss any alter-
native, is simply to accelerate this process.
To me it seems there are three main direc-
tions along which things may go in the future,
and between which rational men have to

The first is to regard the present process
as inevitable and moving towards the elimi-
nation of weak and gentle types, to clear one's
mind of the prejudices of one's time, and to
contemplate a disintegration of all the realities
of the family into an epoch of Free Love, miti-
gated by mercantile necessities and a few


transparent hypocrisies. Rich men will be
free to live lives of irresponsible polygamy ;
poor men will do what they cail ; women's
life will be adventurous, the population will
decline in numbers and perhaps in quality.
(To guard against that mischievous quoter
who lies in wait for all Socialist writers, let
me say at once that this state of affairs is
anti-socialist, is. Ibeliftv^„anria11^d estructife T
and does not commend itself to me at all.)
The second direction is towards reaction,
an attempt to return to the simple old con-
ceptions of our past, to the patriarchal family,
that is to say, of the middle ages. This I
take to be the conception of suoh a Liberal
as Mr. G. K. Chesterton, or <«ffch a Conser- v
vative as Lord Hugh Cecil, and to be also as
much idea as one can find Underlying most
tirades against modern morals. The rights
of the parent will be insisted on and restored,
and the parent means pretty distinctly the v
father. Subject to the influence of a powerful
and well-organized Church, a rejuvenescent
Church, he is to resume that control over


wife and children of which the modern State
has partially deprived him. The develop-
ment of secular education is to be arrested,
particular stress is to be laid upon the wicked-
ness of any intervention with natural repro-
ductive processes, the spread of knowledge
in certain directions is to be made criminal,
and early marriages are to be encouraged. . . .
I do not by any means regard this as an im-
possible programme ; I believe that in many
directions it is quite a practicable one ; it is
in harmony with great masses of feeling in the
country, and with many natural instincts.
It would not of course affect the educated
wealthy and leisurely upper class in the com-
munity, who would be able and intelligent
enough to impose their own private glosses
upon its teaching, but it would " moralize "
the general population, and reduce them to
a state of prolific squalor. Its realization
would be, I believe, almost inevitably accom-
panied by a decline in sanitation, and a cor-
related rise in birth-rate and death-rate, for
life would be cheap, and drainpipes and


antiseptics dear, and it is quite conceivable
that after some stresses, a very nearly stable
social equilibrium would be attained. After
all it is this simple sort of life, without drains
and without education, with child labour (in
the open air for the most part until the eigh-
teenth century — though that is a detail) and a
consequent straightforward gesiref or remuner-
* a tive children that has been th e norm a l life
of humanity for many thousands of years.
We might not succeed in getting back to a
landed peasantry, we might find large masses
of the population would hang up obstinately
in industrial towns — towns that in their
simple naturalness of congestion might come
to resemble the Chinese pattern pretty closely ;
but I have no doubt we could move far in that
direction with very little difficulty indeed.

The third direction is towards the develop-
ing conceptions of Socialism. And it must
be confessed at once that these, as they
emerge steadily and methodically from mere
generalities and confusions, do present them-
selves as being in many aspects, novel and


untried. They are as untested, and in many
respects as alarming, as steam traction or
iron shipping were in 1830. They display,
clearly and unambiguously, principles al-
readyitimidly admitted in practice and senti-
ment to-day, but as yet admitted only con-
fusedly and amidst a cloud of contradictions.
Essentially the Socialist position is a denial
of property in huma n being s ; not only must
landand the means oi production be liberated
from the multitude of little monarchs among
whom they are distributed, to the general 4
injury and inconvenience, but women and
children, just as much as men and things,
must cease to be owned. Socialism indeed
proposes to abolish altogether the patriarchal
family amidst whose disintegrating ruins we
live, and to raise women to an equal citizen-
ship with men. It proposes to give a man no
more property in a woman than a woman has
in jijnan. To stupid people who cannot see
the difference between a woman and a thing,
the abolition of the private ownership of
women takes the form of having " wives in


common," and suggests the Corroboree. It
is obviously nothing of the sort. It is the \
recognition in theory of what in many classes i
is already the fact, — the practical equality of I
men and women in a civilized state. It is j
*quite compatible with a marriage contract of
far greater stringency than that recognized
throughout Christendom to-day.

iTow what sort of contract will the Socialist
state require for marriage ? Here again there
are perfectly clear and simple principles.
Socialism states definitely what almost every-
body recognizes nowadays with greater oi^_
less clearness, and tha t is the concern of III
thejgtatef or childre n. The children people f •
bring into tEe workTcan be no more their pri-
vate concern entirely, than the disease germs
they disseminate or the noises a man'makes in" J
a thin-floored flat. Socialism says boldly
the Stetejs Jthe Over-Parent, the Outer-
Parent. People rear cWlcTfSnTfor the State
and the future ; if they do that well, they do
the whole world a service, and deserve pay-
ment just as much as if they built a bridge


58 Socialism and the ^family ^ x 'v

or raised a crop of wheat ; if they do it unpro-
pitiously and ill, they have done the world an
injury. Socialism denies altogether the right
of any one to beget children carelessly and
promiscuously, and for the pr evention of dis-
ease and evil births alike/the Socialist is pre-
pared for an insistence upon intelligence and
self-restraint quite beyond the current prac-
tice-/ At present we deal with all that sort of
tKmg as an infringement of private proprie-
tary rights ; the Socialist holds it is the world
(_that is injured.-

Iff olio ws th at motherhoodjjv hich we still in
a muddle-headed way seem to regard as partly
self-indulgence and partly a service paid to
a man by a woman, is regarded by the Soci al-
ists as a benefit to society , a public duty don e
It may be in many cases a duty full of pr J
and happiness — that is beside the mark. The
State will pay for children born legitimately
in the marriage it will sanction. A woman
with healthy and successful 'offspring will
draw a wage for each one of them from the
State, so lonff as they go on wqII. It will be
her wage. Under the State she will control






her child's up brin^i ng. How far her husband
will share in the power of direction is a matter
of detail upon which opinion may vary — and
does vary widely among Socialists. I sup-
pose for the most part they incline to the
conception of a joint control. So the mon-
strous injustice of the present time which
makes a mother dependent upon the economic
accidents of her man, which plunges the best
of wives and the most admirable of children
into abject poverty if he happens to die, which
visits his sins of waste and carelessness upon
them far more than upon himself, will dis-
appear. So too the still more monstrous
absurdity of women discharging their supreme
social function, bearing and rearing children
in their spare time, as it were, while they
" earn their living " by contributing some half
mechanical element to some trivial industrial
product, will disappear. ~— , -~

That is the,/gi&£)of the Socialist attitude 1
towards marriage ; the repudiation of private j
ownership of women and children, and the j
payment of mothers. Partially but already ]
very extensively, socialistic ideas have spread


through the whole body of our community ;
they are the saving element in what would
otherwise be a moral catastrophe now, and
the Socialist simply puts with precise definition
the conclusions to which ^all but foolish, ignor-
ant, base or careless people are moving — albeit
some are moving thither with averted faces.
Already we have the large, still incomplete
edifice of free education, and a great mass of
legislation against child labour ; we have free
baths, free playgrounds, free libraries, — more
and more people are coming to admit the
social necessity of saving our children from
the p rivate en terprise of the milkman who
does not sterilize his cans, f ronftEe'private en-
terprise of the schoolmaster who cannot teach,
from the private enterprise of the employer
who takes them on at small wages at thirteen
or fourteen to turn them back on our hands
as ignorant hooligans and social wastrels at
eighteen or twenty. . . . But the straight-
forward payment to the mother still remains
to be brought within the sphere of practical
application. To that we shall come.

BntUr * Tanner, The Belwood Printing Work* From*, and London,




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and his words are measured." — Sunday School Chronicle.


MET US$t k>ft*^



j&\ r,^ — "~ vr \ The Cottage Farm Series No. i.

' f W'T ^ ^' net ' ^°'*» Is * net - Postage, id. and 2d.

' , A reprint of Miss Martineau's famous story of her cottage

farm which she ran for over twelve year^in tie middle of the
nineteenth century.




HUSBANDRY : "'• *' "JT '"""


Sillett was one of the pioneers of the small holdings, and his
booklet ran into a dozen editions fifty years ago. His accounts
show a net profit of £51 ia at Jeast oneyyear, by forkand spade


JJ.'. n By REV. A. M. MITCHELL, M,A.

Vicar of Burton Wood.

Small Crown Svo. 32 pages. 3d. net. Post free $id. '

A plea for a more humane and rational system of child-
training in the elementary schools.


"V 11.

This book should be returned to
the Lj^rary on or before the last date
stamjj&i below.

A ftjffl$ is incurred by retaining it
beyond tfre specified time.

Please return promptly.

0*/a '68


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Este blog tiene como objetivo mostrar opiniones literarias o críticas tanto mías, como las que yo encuentre en Internet, como las opiniones de los lectores que deseen colaborar.