Help Now >
FREE Catholic Classes
A system of social and economic organization that would substitute state monopoly for private ownership of the sources of production and means of distribution, and would concentrate under the control of the secular governing authority the chief activities of human life. The term is often used vaguely to indicate any increase of collective control over individual action, or even any revolt of the dispossessed against the rule of the possessing classes. But these are undue extensions of the term, leading to much confusion of thought. State control and even state ownership are not necessarily Socialism: they become so only when they result in or tend towards the prohibition of private ownership not only of "natural monopolies ", but also of all the sources of wealth. Nor is mere revolt against economic inequality Socialism: it may be Anarchism (see ANARCHY); it may be mere Utopianism (see COMMUNISM); it may be a just resistance to oppression. Nor is it merely a proposal to make such economic changes in the social structure as would banish poverty. Socialism is this (see COLLECTIVISM) and much more. It is also a philosophy of social life and action, regarding all human activities from a definite economic standpoint. Moreover modern Socialism is not a mere arbitrary exercise at state-building, but a deliberate attempt to relieve, on explicit principles, the existing social conditions, which are regarded as intolerable. The great inequalities of human life and opportunity, produced by the excessive concentration of wealth in the hands of a comparatively small section of the community, have been the cause and still are the stimulus of what is called the Socialistic movement. But, in order to understand fully what Socialism is and what it implies, it is necessary first to glance at the history of the movement, then to examine its philosophical and religious tendencies, and finally to consider how far these may be, and actually have proved to be, incompatible with Christian thought and life. The first requirement is to understand the origin and growth of the movement.
It has been customary among writers of the Socialist movement to begin with references to Utopian theories of the classical and Renaissance periods, to Plato's "Republic", Plutarch's "Life of Lycurgus", More's "Utopia", Campanella's "City of the Sun", Hall's "Mundus alter et idem", and the like. Thence the line of thought is traced through the French writers of the eighteenth century, Meslier, Monterquieu, d'Argenson, Morelly, Rousseau, Mably, till, with Linguet and Necker, the eve of the Revolution is reached. In a sense, the modern movement has its roots in the ideas of these creators of ideal commonwealths. Yet there is a gulf fixed between the modern Socialists and the older Utopists. Their schemes were mainly directed towards the establishment of Communism, or rather, Communism was the idea that gave life to their fancied states (see COMMUNISM). But the Collectivist idea, which is the economic basis of modern Socialism (See COLLECTIVISM), really emerges only with "Gracchus" Babeuf and his paper, "The tribune of the People", in 1794. In the manifesto issued by him and his fellow-conspirators, "Les Egaux", is to be found a clear vision of the collective organization of society, such as would be largely accepted by most modern Socialists. Babeuf was guillotined by the Directory, and his party suppressed. Meanwhile, in 1793, Godwin in England had published his "Enquiry Concerning Political Justice ", a work which, though inculcating Anarchist-Communism (see ANARCHY) rather than Collectivism, had much influence on Robert Owen and the school of Determinist Socialists who succeeded him. But a small group of English writers in the early years of the nineteenth century had really more to do with the development of Socialist thought than had either Owen's attempts to found ideal communities, at New Lanark and elsewhere, or the contemporary theories and practice of Saint-Simon and Fourier in France.
These English writers, the earliest of whom, Dr. Charles Hall, first put forward that idea of a dominant industrial and social "system", which is the pervading conception of modern Socialism, worked out the various basic principles of Socialism, which Marx afterwards appropriated and combined. Robert Thompson, Ogilvie, Hodgkin, Gray, above all William Carpenter, elaborated the theories of "surplus value", of "production for profit", of "class-war", of the ever-increasing exploitation of the poor by the rich, which are the stuff of Marx's "Das Kapital", that "old clothes-shop of ideas culled from Berlin, Paris, and London ". For indeed, this famous work is really nothing more than a dexterous combination of Hegelian Evolutionism, of French Revolutionism , and of the economic theories elaborated by Ricardo, on the one hand, and this group of English theorists on the other. Yet the services of Karl Marx and of his friend and brother-Hebrew, Friedrich Engels, to the cause of Socialism must not be underrated. These two writers came upon the scene just when the Socialist movement was at its lowest ebb. In England the work of Robert Owen had been overlaid by the Chartist movement and its apparent failure, while the writings of the economists mentioned above had had but little immediate influence. In France the Saint-Simonians and the Fourierists had disgusted everyone by the moral collapse of their systems. In Germany Lassalle had so far devoted his brilliant energies merely to Republicanism and philosophy. But in 1848 Marx and Engels published the "Communist Manifesto", and, mere rhetoric as it was, this document was the beginning of modern "scientific Socialism". The influence of Proudhon and of the Revolutionary spirit of the times pervades the whole manifesto: the economic analysis of society was to be grafted on later. But already there appear the ideas of "the materialistic conception of history", of "the bourgeoisie" and "the proletariat", and of "class-war".
After 1848, in his exile in London, Marx studied, and wrote, and organized with two results: first, the foundation of "The International Workingmen's Association", in 1864; second, the publication of the first volume of "Das Kapital", in 1867. It is not easy to judge which has had the more lasting effect upon the Socialist movement. "The International" gave to the movement its world-wide character ; "Das Kapital" elaborated and systematized the philosophic and economic doctrine which is still the creed of the immense majority of Socialists. "Proletarians of all lands, unite!" the sentence with which the Communist Manifesto of 1848 concludes, became a reality with the foundation of the International. For the first time since the disruption of Christendom an organization took shape which had for its object the union of the major portion of all nations upon a common basis. It was not so widely supported as both its upholders believed and the frightened moneyed interests imagined. Nor had this first organization any promise of stability. From the outset the influence of Marx steadily grew, but it was confronted by the opposition of Bakunin and the Anarchist school. By 1876 the International was even formally at an end. But it had done its work: the organized working classes of all Europe had realized the international nature both of their own grievances and of capitalism, and when, in 1889, the first International Congress of Socialist and Trade-Union delegates met at Paris, a "New International" came into being which exists with unimpaired or, rather, with enhanced energy to the present day. Since that first meeting seven others have been held at intervals of three or four years, at which there has been a steady growth in the number of delegates present, the variety of nationalities represented, and the extent of the Socialistic influence over its deliberations.
In 1900, an International Socialist Bureau was established at Brussels, with the purpose of Solidifying and strengthening the international character of the movement. Since 1904, an Inter-Parliamentary Socialist Committee has given further support to the work of the bureau. To-day the international nature of the Socialistic movement is an axiom both within and without its ranks; an axiom that must not be forgotten in the estimation both of the strength and of the trend of the movement. To the International, then, modern Socialism owes much of its present power. To "Das Kapital" it owes such intellectual coherence as it still possesses. The success of this book was immediate and considerable. It has been translated into many languages, epitomized by many hands, criticized, discussed, and eulogized. Thousands who would style themselves Marxians and would refer to "Das Kapital" as "The Bible of Socialism", and the irrefragable basis of their creed, have very probably never seen the original work, nor have even read it in translation. Marx himself published only the first volume; the second was published under Engels' editorship in 1885, two years after the death of Marx; a third was elaborated by Engels from Marx's notes in 1895; a fourth was projected but never accomplished. But the influence of this torso has been immense. With consummate skill Marx gathered together and worked up the ideas and evidence that had originated with others, or were the floating notions of the movement; with the result that the new international organization had ready to hand a body of doctrine to promulgate, the various national Socialist parties a common theory and programme for which to work. And promulgated it was, with a devotion and at times a childlike faith that had no slight resemblance to religious propaganda. It has been severely and destructively criticized by economists of many schools, many of its leading doctrines have been explicitly abandoned by the Socialist leaders in different countries, some are now hardly defended even by those leaders who label themselves "Marxian". Yet the influence of the book persists. The main doctrines of Marxism are still the stuff of popular Socialist belief in all countries, are still put forward in scarcely modified form in the copious literature produced for popular consumption, are still enunciated or implied in popular addresses even by some of the very leaders who have abandoned them in serious controversy. In spite of the growth of Revisionism in Germany, of Syndicalism in France, and of Fabian Expertism in England, it is still accurate to maintain that the vast majority of Socialists, the rank and file of the movement in all countries, are adherents of the Marxian doctrine, with all its materialistic philosophy, its evolutionary immorality, its disruptive political and social analysis, its class-conscious economics.
In Socialism, today, as in most departments of human thought, the leading writers display a marked shyness of fundamental analysis : "The domain of Socialist thought", says Lagardelle, has become "an intellectual desert." Its protagonists are largely occupied, either in elaborating schemes of social reform, which not infrequently present no exclusively socialist characteristics, or else in apologizing for and disavowing inconvenient applications by earlier leaders, of socialist philosophy to the domain of religion and ethics. Nevertheless, in so far as the International movement remains definitely Socialist at all, the formulae of its propaganda and the creed of its popular adherents are predominantly the reflection of those put forward in "Das Kapital" in 1867. Moreover, during all this period of growth of the modern Socialist movement, two other parallel movements in all countries have at once supplemented and counterpoised it. These are trade-unionism and co-operation. There is no inherent reason why either of these movements should lead towards Socialism: properly conducted and developed, both should render unnecessary anything that can correctly be styled "Socialism". But, as a matter of fact, both these excellent movements, owing to unwise opposition by the dominant capitalism, on the one hand, and indifference in the Churches on the other, are menaced by Socialism, and may eventually be captured by the more intelligent and energetic Socialists and turned to serve the ends of Socialism. The training in mutual aid and interdependence, as well as in self-government and business habits, which the leaders of the wage-earners have received in both trade-unionism and the co-operative movements, while it might be of incalculable benefit in the formation of the needed Christian democracy, has so far been effective largely in demonstrating the power that is given by organization and numbers. And the leaders of Socialism have not been slow to emphasize the lesson and to extend the argument, with sufficient plausibility, towards state monopoly and the absolutism of the majority. The logic of their argument has, it is true, been challenged, in recent years, in Europe by the rise of the great Catholic trade-union and co-operative organizations. But in English-speaking nations this is yet to come, and both co-operation and trade-unionism are allowed to drift into the grip of the Socialist movement, with the result that what might become a most effective alternative for Collectivism remains today its nursery and its support.
Parallel with the International movement has run the local propaganda in various countries, in each of which the movement has taken its colour from the national characteristics; a process which has continued, until today it is sometimes difficult to realize that the different bodies who are represented in the International Congresses form part of the same agitation. In Germany, the fatherland of dogmatic Socialism, the movement first took shape in 1862. In that year Ferdinand Lassalle, the brilliant and wealthy young Jewish lawyer, delivered a lecture to an artisans' association at Berlin. Lassalle was fined by the authorities for his temerity, but "The Working Men's Programme", as the lecture was styled, resulted in The Universal German Working Men's Association, which was founded at Leipzig under his influence the following year. Lassalle commenced a stormy progress throughout Germany, lecturing, organizing, writing. The movement did not grow at first with the rapidity he had expected, and he himself was killed in a duel in 1864. But his tragic death aroused interest, and The Working Men's Association grew steadily till, in 1869, reinforced by the adhesion of the various organizations which had grown out of Marx's propaganda, it became, at Eisenach, the Socialist Democratic Working Men's Party. Liebknecht, Bebel, and Singer, all Marxians, were its chief leaders. The two former were imprisoned for treason in 1870; but in 1874 ten members of the party, including the two leaders, were returned to the Reichstag by 450,000 votes. The Government attempted repression, with the usual result of consolidating and strengthening the movement. In 1875 was held the celebrated congress at Gotha, at which was drawn up the programme that formed the basis of the party. Three years later an attempt upon the emperor's life was made the excuse for renewed repression. But it was in vain. In spite of alternate persecution and essays in state Socialism, on the part of Bismarck, the power in 1890 and since then the party has grown rapidly, and is now the strongest political body in Germany. In 18909 Edward Bernstein, who had come under the influence of the Fabians in England since 1888, started the "Revisionist" movement, which, while attempting to concentrate the energies of the party more definitely upon specific reforms and "revising" to extinction many of the most cherished doctrines of Marxism, has yet been subordinated to the practical exigencies of politics. To all appearance the Socialist Party is stronger today than ever. The elections of 1907 brought out 3,258,968 votes in its favour; those of January, 1912, gave it 110 seats out of a total of 307 in the Reichstag -- a gain of more than 100 per cent over its last previous representation (53 seats). The Marxian "Erfurt Programme", adopted in 1891, is still the official creed of the Party. But the "Revisionist" policy is obviously gaining ground and, if the Stuttgart Congress of 1907 be any indication, is rapidly transforming the revolutionary Marxist party into an opportunist body devoted to specific social reforms.
In France the progress of Socialism has been upon different lines. After the collapse of Saint-Simonism and Fourierism, came the agitation of Louis Blanc in 1848, with his doctrine of "The Right to Work". But this was side-tracked by the triumphant politicians into the scandalous "National Workshops", which were probably deliberately established on wrong lines in order to bring ridicule upon the agitation. Blanc was driven into exile, and French Socialism lay dormant till the ruin of Imperialism in 1870 and the outbreak of the Commune in 1871. This rising was suppressed with a ferocity that far surpassed the wildest excesses of the Communards; 20,000 men are said to have been shot in cold blood, many of whom were certainly innocent, while not a few were thrown alive in the common burial pits. But this savagery, though it temporarily quelled the revolution, did nothing to obviate the Socialist movement. At first many of the scattered leaders declared for Anarchism, but soon most of them abandoned it as impracticable and threw their energies into the propagation of Marxian Socialism. In 1879 the amnesty permitted Jules Guesde, Brousse, Malon, and other leaders to return. In 1881, after the Anarchist-Communist group under Kropotkin and Reclus had seceded, two parties came into existence, the opportunist Alliance Socialiste Republicaine, and the Marxian Parti Ouvrier Socialiste Revolutionaire de France. But these parties soon split up in others. Guesde led, and still leads, the Irreconcilables; Jaures and Millerand have been the leaders of the Parliamentarians; Brousse, Blanqui, and others have formed their several communistic groups. In 1906, however, largely owing to the influence of Jaures, the less extreme parties united again to form Le Parti Socialiste Unifie. This body is but loosely formed of various irreconcilable groups and includes Anarchists like Herve, Marxists like Guesde, Syndicalists like Lagardelle, Opportunists like Millerand, all of whom Jaures endeavours, with but slight success, to maintain in harmony. For right across the Marxian doctrinairianism and the opportunism of the parliamentary group has driven the recent Revolutionary Syndicalist movement. This, which is really Anarchist-Communism working through trade-unionism, is a movement distrustful of parliamentary systems, favourable to violence, tending towards destructive revolution. The Confederation Generale du Travail is rapidly absorbing the Socialist movement in France, or at least robbing it of the ardent element that gives it life.
In the British Isles the Socialist movement has had a less stormy career. After the collapse of Owenism and Chartist movement, the practical genius of the nation directed its chief reform energies towards the consolidation of the trade unions and the building up of the great co-operative enterprise. Steadily, for some forty years, the trade-union leaders worked at the strenghening of their respective organizations, which, with their dual character of friendly societies and professional associations, had no small part in training the working classes in habits of combination for common ends. And this lesson was emphasized and enlarged by the Co-operative movement, which, springing from the tiny efforts of the Rochdale Pioneers, spread throughout the country, till it is now one of the mightiest business organizations in the world. In this movement many a labour leader learnt habits of business and of successful committee work that enabled him later on to deal on equal, or even on advantageous, terms with the representatives of the owning classes. But during all this period of training the Socialist movement proper lay dormant. It was not until 1884, with the foundation of the strictly Marxian Social Democratic Federation by H. M. Hyndman, that the Socialist propaganda took active in England. It did not achieve any great immediate success, not has it ever since shown signs of appealing widely to the English temperament. But it was a beginning, and it was followed by other, more inclusive, organizations. A few months after its foundation the Socialist League, led by William Morris, seceded from it and had a brief and stormy existence. In 1893, at Bradford, the "Independent Labour Party" was formed under the leadership of J. Keir Hardie, with the direct purpose of carrying Socialism into politics. Attached to it were two weekly papers, "The Clarion" and "The Labour Leader"; the former of which, by its sale of over a million copies of an able little manual, "Merrie England ", had no small part in the diffusion of popular Socialism. All these three bodies were popular Socialism. All these three bodies were Marxian in doctrine and largely working class in membership.
But, as early as 1883, a group of middle-class students had joined together as The Fabian Society. This body, while calling itself Socialist, rejected the Marxian in favour of Jevonsian economics, and devoted itself to the social education of the public by means of lectures, pamphlets and books, and to the spread of Collectivist ideas by the "permeation" of public bodies and political parties. Immense as have been its achievements in this direction, its constant preoccupation with practical measures of reform and its contact with organized party politics have led it rather in the direction of the "Servile State" than of the Socialist Commonwealth. But the united efforts of the various Socialist bodies, in concert with trade unionism, resulted, in 1899, in the formation of the Labour Representation Committee which, seven years later, had developed into the Labour Party, with about thirty representatives in the House of Commons. Already, however, a few years' practical acquaintance with party politics has diminished the Socialist orthodoxy of the Labour Party, and it shows signs of becoming absorbed in the details of party contention. Significant commentaries appeared in the summer of 1911 and in the spring of 1912; industrial disturbances, singularly resembling French Syndicalism, occurred spontaneously in most commercial and mining centres, and the whole Labour movement in the British Isles has reverted to the Revolutionary type that last appeared in 1889.
In every European nation the Socialist movement has followed, more or less faithfully, one of the three preceding types. In Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, and Italy it is predominantly parliamentary: in Russia, Spain, and Portugal it displays a more bitterly revolutionary character. But everywhere the two tendencies, parliamentary and revolutionary, struggle for the upper hand; now one, now the other becoming predominant. Nor is the movement in the United States any exception to the rule. It began about 1849, purely as a movement among the German and other immigrants and, in spite of the migration of the old International to New York in 1872, had but little effect upon the native population till the Henry George movement of 1886. Even then jealousies and divisions restricted its action, till the reorganization of the Socialist Labour Party at Chicago in 1889. Since then the movement has spread rapidly. In 1897 appeared the Social Democracy of America, which, uniting with the majority of the Socialist Labour Party in 1901, formed the present rapidly growing Socialist Party. In the United States the movement is still strongly Marxian in character, though a Revisionist school is growing up, somewhat on the lines of the English Fabian movement, under the influence of writers like Edmond Kelly, Morris Hillquit, and Professors Ely and Zuelin. But the main body is still crudely Revolutionary, and is likely to remain so until the political democracy of the nation is more perfectly reflected in its economic conditions.School or Church closed? - Here's FREE help!
These main points in the history of Socialism lead up to an examination of its spirit and intention. The best idealism of earlier times was fixed upon the soul rather than upon the body: exactly the opposite is the case with Socialism. Social questions are almost entirely questions of the body -- public health, sanitation, housing, factory conditions, infant mortality, employment of women, hours of work, rates of wages, accidents, unemployment, pauperism, old age pensions, sickness, infirmity, lunacy, feeble-mindedness, intemperance, prostitution, physical deterioration. All these are excellent ends for activity in themselves, but all of them are mainly concerned with the care or cure of the body. To use a Catholic phrase, they are opportunities for corporal works of mercy , which may lack the spiritual intention that would make them Christian. The material may be made a means to the spiritual, but is not to be considered an end in itself. This world is a place of probation, and the time is short. Man is here for a definite purpose, a purpose which transcends the limits of this mortal life, and his first business is to realize this purpose and carry it out with whatever help and guidance he may find. The purpose is a spiritual one, but he is free to choose or refuse the end for which he was created ; he is free to neglect or to co-operate with the Divine assistance, which will give his life the stability and perfection of a spiritual rather than of a material nature. This being so, there must be a certain order in the nature of his development. He is not wholly spiritual nor wholly material; he has a soul, a mind, and a body; but the interests of the soul must be supreme, and the interests of mind and body must be brought into proper subservience to it. His movement towards perfection is by way of ascent; it is not easy; it requires continual exercise of the will, continual discipline, continual training -- it is a warfare and a pilgrimage, and in it are two elements, the spiritual and the material, which are one in the unity of his daily life. As St. Paul pointed out, there must be a continual struggle between these two elements. If the individual life is to be a success, the spiritual desire must triumph, the material one must be subordinate, and when this is so the whole individual life is lived with proper economy, spiritual things being sought after as an end, while material things are used merely as a means to that end.
The point, then, to be observed is that the spiritual life is really the economic life. From the Christian point of view material necessities are to be kept at a minimum, and material superfluities as far as possible to be dispensed with altogether. The Christian is a soldier and a pilgrim who requires material things only as a means to fitness and nothing more. In this he has the example of Christ Himself, Who came to earth with a minimum of material advantages and persisted thus even to the Cross. The Christian, then, not only from the individual but also from the social standpoint, has chosen the better part. He does not despise this life, but, just because his material desires are subordinate to his spiritual ones, he lives it much more reasonably, much more unselfishly, much more beneficially to his neighbours. The point, too, which he makes against the Socialist is this. The Socialist wishes to distribute material goods in such a way as to establish a substantial equality, and in order to do this he requires the State to make and keep this distribution compulsory. The Christian replies to him: "You cannot maintain this widespread distribution, for the simple reason that you have no machinery for inducing men to desire it. On the contrary, you do all you can to increase the selfish and accumulative desires of men: you centre and concentrate all their interest on material accumulation, and then expect them to distribute their goods." This ultimate difference between Christian and Socialist teaching must be clearly understood. Socialism appropriates all human desires and centres them on the here-and-now, on material benefit and prosperity. But material goods are so limited in quality, in quantity, and in duration that they are incapable of satisfying human desires, which will ever covet more and more and never feel satisfaction. In this Socialism and Capitalism are at one, for their only quarrel is over the bone upon which is the meat that perisheth. Socialism, of itself and by itself, can do nothing to diminish or discipline the immediate and materialistic lust of men, because Socialism is itself the most exaggerated and universalized expression of this lust yet known to history. Christianity, on the other hand, teaches and practices unselfish distribution of material goods, both according to the law of justice and according to the law of charity.
Again, ethically speaking, Socialism is committed to the doctrine of determinism. Holding that society makes the individuals of which it is composed, and not vice versa, it has quite lost touch with the invigorating Christian doctrine of free will. This fact may be illustrated by its attitude towards the three great institutions which have hitherto most strongly exemplified and protected that doctrine -- the Church, the Family, and private ownership. Socialism, with its essentially materialistic nature, can admit no raison d'etre for a spiritual power, as complementary and superior to the secular power of the State. Man, as the creature of a material environment, and as the subject of a material State, has no moral responsibilities and can yield to no allegiance beyond that of the State. Any power which claims to appropriate and discipline his interior life, and which affords him sanctions that transcend all evolutionary and scientific determinism, must necessarily incur Socialist opposition. So, too, with the Family. According to the prevalent Socialist teaching, the child stands between two authorities, that of its parents and that of the State, and of these the State is certainly the higher. The State therefore is endowed with the higher authority and with all powers of interference to be used at its own discretion. Contrast this with the Christian notion of the Family -- an organic thing with an organic life of its own. The State, it is true, must ensure a proper basis for its economic life, but beyond that it should not interfere: its business is not to detach the members of the family from their body in order to make them separately and selfishly efficient; a member is cut off from its body only as a last resource to prevent organic poisoning. The business of the State is rather that of helping the Family to a healthy, co-operative, and productive unity. The State was never meant to appropriate to itself the main parental duties, it was rather meant to provide the parents, especially poor parents, with a wider, freer, healthier family sphere in which to be properly parental. Socialism, then, both in Church and Family, is impersonal and deterministic: it deprives the individual of both his religious and his domestic freedom. And it is exactly the same with the institution of private property.
The Christian doctrine of property can best be stated in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas : "In regard to an external thing man has two powers: one is the power of managing and controlling it, and as to this it is lawful for a man to possess private property. It is, moreover, necessary for human life for three reasons. First, because everyone is more zealous in looking after a thing that belongs to him than a thing that is the common property of all or of many; because each person, trying to escape labour, leaves to another what is everybody's business, as happens where there are many servants. Secondly, because there is more order in the management of men's affairs if each has his own work of looking after definite things; whereas there would be confusion if everyone managed everything indiscriminately. Thirdly, because in this way the relations of men are kept more peaceful, since everyone is satisfied with his own possession, whence we see that quarrels are commoner between those who jointly own a thing as a whole. The other power which man has over external things is the using of them;; and as to this man must not hold external things as his own property, but as everyone's; so as to make no difficulty, I mean, in sharing when others are in need" (Summa theologica, II-II, Q. Ixvi, a. 2). If man, then, has the right to own, control, and use private property, the State cannot give him this right or take it away; it can only protect it. Here, of course, we are at issue with Socialism, for, according to it, the State is the supreme power from which all human rights are derived; it acknowledges no independent spiritual, domestic, or individual power whatever. In nothing is the bad economy of Socialism more evident than in its derogation or denial of all the truly personal and self-directive powers of human nature, and its misuse of such of such human qualities as it does not despise or deny is a plain confession of its material and deterministic limitations. It is true that the institutions of religion, of the family, and of private ownership are liable to great abuses, but the perfection of human effort and character demands a freedom of choice between good and evil as their first necessary condition. This area of free choice is provided, on the material side, by private ownership; on the spiritual and material, by the Christian Family ; and on the purely spiritual by religion. The State, then, instead of depriving men of these opportunities of free and fine production, not only of material but also of intellectual values, should rather constitute itself as their defender.
In apparent contradiction, however, to much of the foregoing argument are the considerations put forward by numerous schools of "Christian Socialism", both Catholic and non-Catholic. It will be urged that there cannot really be the opposition between Socialism and Christianity that is here suggested, for, as a matter of fact, many excellent and intelligent persons in all countries are at once convinced Christians and ardent Socialists. Now, before it is possible to estimate correctly how far this undoubted fact can alter the conclusions arrived at above, certain premises must be noted. First, it is not practically possible to consider Socialism solely as an economic or social doctrine. It has long passed the stage of pure theory and attained the proportions of a movement: It is today a doctrine embodied in programmes, a system of thought and belief that is put forward as the vivifying principle of an active propaganda, a thing organically connected with the intellectual and moral activities of the millions who are its adherents. Next, the views of small and scattered bodies of men and women, who profess to reconcile the two doctrines, must be allowed no more than their due weight when contrasted with the expressed beliefs of not only the majority of the leading exponents of Socialism, past and present, but also of the immense majority of the rank and file in all nations. Thirdly, for Catholics, the declarations of supreme pontiffs, of the Catholic hierarchy, and of the leading Catholic sociologists and economists have an important bearing on the question, an evidential force not to be lightly dismissed. Lastly, the real meaning attached to the terms "Christianity" and "Socialism", by those who profess to reconcile these doctrines, must always be elicited before it is possible to estimate either what doctrines are being reconciled or how far that reconciliation is of any practical adequacy.
If it be found on examination that the general trend of the Socialist movement, the predominant opinion of the Socialists, the authoritative pronouncements of ecclesiastical and expert Catholic authority all tend to emphasize the philosophical cleavage indicated above, it is probably safe to conclude that those who profess to reconcile the two doctrines are mistaken: either their grasp of the doctrines of Christianity or of Socialism will be found to be imperfect, or else their mental habits will appear to be so lacking in discipline that they are content with the profession of a belief in incompatible principles. Now, if Socialism be first considered as embodied in the Socialist movement and Socialist activity, it is notorious that everywhere it is antagonistic to Christianity. This is above all clear in Catholic countries, where the Socialist organizations are markedly anti-Christian both in profession and practice. It is true that of late years there has appeared among Socialists some impatience of remaining mere catspaws of the powerful Masonic anti-clerical societies, but this is rather because these secret societies are largely engineered by the wealthy in the interests of capitalism than from any affection for Catholicism. The European Socialist remains anti-clerical, even when he revolts against Masonic manipulation. Nor is this really less true of non Catholic countries. In Germany, in Holland, in Denmark, in the United States even in Great Britain, organized Socialism is ever prompt to express (in its practical programme, if not in its formulated creed ) its contempt for and inherent antagonism to revealed Christianity. What, in public, is not infrequently deprecated is clearly enough implied in projects of legislation, as well as in the mental attitude that is usual in Socialist circles.
Nor are the published views of the Socialist leaders and writers less explicit. "Scientific Socialism" began as an economic exposition of evolutionary materialism ; it never lost that character. Its German founders, Marx, Engels, Lassalle, were notoriously anti-Christian both in temper and in acquired philosophy. So have been its more modern exponents in Germany, Bebel, Liebknecht, Kautsky, Dietzgen, Bernstein, Singer, as well as the popular papers -- the "Sozial Demokrat", the "Vorwarts", the "Zimmerer", the "Neue Zeit" -- which reflect, while expounding, the view of the rank and file; and the Gotha and Erfurt programmes, which express the practical aims of the movement. In France and the Netherlands the former and present leaders of the various Socialist sections are at one on the question of Christianity -- Lafargue, Herve, Boudin, Guesde, Jaures, Viviani, Sorel, Briand, Griffuelhes, Largardelle, Tery, Renard, Nieuwenhuis, Vandervelde -- all are anti-Christian, as are the popular newspapers, like "La Guerre Sociale", "L'Humanite", "Le Socialiste", the "Petite Republique", the "Recht voor Allen", "Le Peuple". In Italy, Austria, Spain, Russia, and Switzerland it is the same: Socialism goes hand in hand with the attack on Christianity. Only in the English-speaking countries is the rule apparently void. Yet, even there, but slight acquaintance with the leading personalities of the Socialist movement and the habits of thought current among them, is sufficient to dispel the illusion. In Great Britain certain prominent names at once occur as plainly anti-Christian -- Aveling, Hyndman, Pearson, Blatchford, Bax, Quelch, Leatham, Morris, Standring -- many of them pioneers and prophets of the movement in England. The Fabians, Shaw, Pease, Webb, Guest; independents, like Wells, or Orage, or Carpenter; popular periodicals like "The Clarion", "The Socialist Review", "Justice" are all markedly non-Christian in spirit, though some of them do protest against any necessary incompatibility between their doctrines and the Christian. It is true that the political leaders, like Macdonald and Hardie, and a fair proportion of the present Labour Party might insist that "Socialism is only Christianity in terms of modern economics ", but the very measures they advocate or support not unfrequently are anti-Christian in principle or tendency. And in the United States it is the same. Those who have studied the writings or speeches of well-known Socialists, such as Bellamy, Gronlund, Spargo, Hunter, Debs, Herron, Abbott, Brown, Del Mar, Hillquit, Kerr, or Simmons, or periodicals like the " New York Volkszeitung", "The People", "The Comrade", or "The Worker", are aware of the bitterly anti-Christian tone that pervades them and is inherent in their propaganda.
The trend of the Socialist movement, then, and the deliberate pronouncements and habitual thought of leaders and followers alike, are almost universally found to be antagonistic to Christianity. Moreover, the other side of the question is but a confirmation of this antagonism. For all three popes who have come into contact with modern Socialism, Pius IX , Leo XIII, and Pius X, have formally condemned it, both as a general doctrine and with regard to specific points. The bishops and clergy, the lay experts on social and economic questions, the philosophers, the theologians, and practically the whole body of the faithful are unanimous in their acceptance of the condemnation. It is of little purpose to point out that the Socialism condemned is Marxism, and not Fabianism or its analogues in various countries. For, in the first place, the main principles common to all schools of Socialism have been explicitly condemned in Encyclicals like the "Rerum novarum" or the "Graves de communi"; and, in addition, as has been shown above, the main current of Socialism is still Marxist, and no adhesion to a movement professedly international can be acquitted of the guilt of lending support to the condemned doctrines. The Church, the Socialists, the very tendency of the movement do but confirm the antagonism of principle, indicated above, between Socialism and Christianity. The "Christian Socialists" of all countries, indeed, fall readily, upon examination, into one of three categories. Either they are very imperfectly Christian, as the Lutheran followers of Stocker and Naumann in Germany, or the Calvinist Socialists in France, or the numerous vaguely-doctrinal "Free-Church" Socialists in England and America; or, secondly, they are but very inaccurately styled "Socialist"; as were the group led by Kingsley, Maurice and Hughes in England, or "Catholic Democrats" like Ketteler, Manning, Descurtins, the "Sillonists"; or, thirdly, where there is an acceptance of the main Christian doctrine, side by side with the advocacy of Revolutionary Socialism, as is the case with the English "Guild of St. Matthew " or the New York Church Association for the Advancement of the Interests of Labour, it can only be ascribed to that mental facility in holding at the same time incompatible doctrines, which is everywhere the mark of the " Catholic but not Roman" school. Christianity and Socialism are hopelessly incompatible, and the logic of events makes this ever clearer. It is true that, before the publication of the Encyclical "Rerum novarum", it was not unusual to apply the term "Christian Socialism" to the social reforms put forward throughout Europe by those Catholics who are earnestly endeavouring to restore the social philosophy of Catholicism to the position it occupied in the ages of Faith. But, under the guidance of Pope Leo XIII , that crusade against the social and economic iniquities of the present age is now more correctly styled "Christian Democracy", and no really instructed, loyal, and clear-thinking Catholic would now claim or accept the style of Christian Socialist.
To sum up, in the words of a capable anonymous writer in "The Quarterly Review", Socialism has for "its philosophical basis, pure materialism ; its religious basis is pure negation; its ethical basis the theory that society makes the individuals of which it is composed, not the individuals society, and that therefore the structure of society determines individual conduct, which involves moral irresponsibility; its economic basis is the theory that labour is the sole producer, and that capital is the surplus value over bare subsistence produced by labour and stolen by capitalists; its juristic basis is the right of labour to the whole product; its historical basis is the industrial revolution, that is the change from small and handicraft methods of production to large and mechanical ones, and the warfare of classes; its political basis is democracy. . . . It may be noted that some of these [bases] have already been abandoned and are in ruins, others are beginning to shake; and as this process advances the defenders are compelled to retreat and take up fresh positions. Thus the form of the doctrine changes and undergoes modification, though all cling still to the central principle, which is the substitution of public for private ownership".
Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.