No More Family Life

This is the awful pronouncement which greeted readers of the Daily Distress one morning in October. Said the Editor:—

“We have proved from the writings of Socialist leaders that atheism is one of their principal creeds, and that the marriage ties are not considered to be of any importance. But our exposures have caused consternation at the Socialist headquarters, and every effort is being made to deny our charges in order to allay the fears of those who have succumbed to the blandishments of the smooth-tongued street-corner orators. Socialism cannot endure exposure. It flourishes in the dark.”

Socialism flourishes in the dark, you see. Only a day or so previously a leading article in the same veracious journal impressed upon its intelligent clientele that “the greatest mistake we can make in dealing with the Socialists is to debate with them. It is just what they want.” It is painfully evident that we Socialists don’t know when we are well off. After all, why should we seek the light of debate when, so the Express says, we “flourish in the dark” ? To us, our hundreds of meetings in the open air, in parks, at street corners, at factory gates, have savoured of extreme publicity, and the invariable presence of the police would appear to warrant the assumption. We have nurtured a phantom. On the authority of the Express we have been in Stygian blackness the whole time. Hence our flourishing condition. This, of course, is Express reasoning. If the editorial tongue were not so plainly visible within the editorial cheek, a plain man might be tempted to style it twaddle. Mr. Pearson further informs us that:

“Under advanced Socialism every child is to belong to the “State.” Parental responsibility in every shape is to be ended. Feeding, clothing, training, educating—the State is to do it all. One stands aghast, and wonders whether the result would be more disastrous to the parent than to the child,”

but on page 4 of the same issue a Mr. Claude Lowther “dealing” with the “Canker of Socialism” says “of course we recognise that the child belongs to the community and that the health of the child is the well-being of the State.” So it would appear that Socialism has stolen a march upon us and is here in all its hideous nakedness. And the mother don’t seem to mind. Or shall we say that Mr. Lowther would be well advised if in future he compared notes with the Editor before rushing into type ? There is a possibility of a glimmer of sense creeping in by accident whilst the present haphazard arrangement lasts. Don’t risk it, Claude.

Education again, we always understood, was the particular concern of the State. But read this first :


And what about character ? What about individual care ? What about family life and that affection which makes childhood’s days so sweet in the remembering ? Because many homes are unhappy; because many poor little children cry for food in the slums ; because some parents are without love and kindness, are all children to be without parents and to have a barrack for a nursery and a soulless “State” for a mother’s care ?
THE HOME IS TO GO. FAMILY LIFE HAS TO GO. Let the little ones wake in the night and cry for their parents — Let the mother stretch out for the child.
It is not hers at all. It is the State’s !
Socialism has no care for empty arms and wistful mothers. The child is the State’s, and mothers must go desolate. The little shoes, the little baby clothes—the kind “State” wil! provide those, and they will be all of a pattern and all alike.
Under Socialism every child will be a workhouse child. If the mothers dressed them, one would be prettier than another—and that would not be Socialism.”

Let me emphasise the fact that the article here quoted appeared in the Daily Express, Oct. 8th, not in Punch as perhaps might be imagined.

Only one thing is lacking to complete the harrowing picture. Why not prevail upon the talented artist who enlivened the last L.C.C. election with his beautiful and soulful conceptions to endeavour to depict the interior of a “barrack nursery.” Nothing appeals to the masses like a picture, and one such of a very long room, tall and broad, filled with hundreds of squalling infants, each seated before a “soulless” half yard of indiarubber pipe, through which the State pumped nutriment, would carry conviction. I present the idea to the Daily Express for what it is worth.

But coming down to hard facts and above all, those of present-day life, how does this strike the Editor of the Daily Distress and those who think with him that human society has reached its highest possible expression in that of to-day, so completely does it meet the individual wants of its components ? This is from the Boston American, July 28th :—

Parents Are Compelled to Sign Release Deed Before Work is Secured.
Hundreds Execute It.

Worcester, July 27.—The American Steel and Wire Trust is buying children in Worcester for one dollar a head.
Several hundred have already been sold to slave in the three huge mills of the trust in this city, and the sale of hundreds of others will soon be consummated it the State authorities do not interfere.
Many parents have refused to sell their children into slavery, and it is expected that they will soon have to find employment elsewhere than in the trust mills for their boys and girls.
The Steel and Wire Trust is determined that it shall own its employes body and soul.
To secure absolute control of the children the trust recently demanded that their parents sign “A MINOR’S RELEASE.”
Each parent who signs this receives one dollar, and for that dollar he or she waives forever all control over the child: all right to collect his or her pay and all legal rights, in the opinion of the trust’s attorney, to collect damages should the child be killed or maimed in the mills.
Here is a copy of the “minor’s release,” by which the parent makes his child a slave for a mite of the trust’s gold:


Know all men by these presents, That, in consideration of the sum of One Dollar and other good and valuable considerations, to me in hand paid, I ………. of …….. have emancipated and do hereby emancipate …… of …… my son, of and from any and all liability to render or account for his services to me, and all obligations to me of whatsoever kind or nature, and do hereby release and forever waive any and all right which I may have in and to his services, or any wages or salary earned by him; and do hereby authorize any and all persons whomsoever to contract with my said son without any liability to me, and to pay him his wages, and to do any and all things and make any and all contracts, with said son, without any liability to me ; and authorize the said son to appropriate and receive, for his own use and benefit, without any liability to me, his services, and pay and all proceeds or avails thereof.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal at …… this …… day of 190…
Witness : ……………………………………………………………………

Comment is almost needless. The Socialist is simply charged with certain proposals : here is an actuality. What of family life ? “Let the little ones wake in the night and cry for their parents—let the mother stretch out for her child.”

It is not hers at all. It is the Trusts !

“And what about character? What about individual care? What about family life and that affection which makes childhood’s days so sweet in the remembering ?”

How awkward for the Express that we here can speak in the present tense. THE HOME HAS GONE. FAMILY LIFE AS WELL.

And the American Socialists have denounced it. And the American prototypes of the Expres have denounced the Socialists.

We need not travel so far as Tariff-protected America for indications of the ineffable state of bliss, marital and otherwise, in which the working class exists. We are indebted to capitalist sources almost exclusively for our best and most illuminating arguments and statistics.

The census returns show about 43 millions of human beings as inhabiting the British Isles. Of these 38 millions take just over half the national yearly production of wealth, the other 5 millions taking the remainder. The average income of the larger division is less than £160 per head. Thirteen millions are perpetually on or below the poverty line, and nearly a million receive Poor Law relief. What a bed of roses ! What possibilities for the formation of character and that affection which makes childhood’s day’s etc., ad nauseum. Beautiful language the Express people pour forth. “Because many homes are unhappy; because many poor little children cry for food in the slums ; because some parents are without love and kindness; are all children to be without parents and to have a barrack for a nursery and a soulless “State” for a mother’s care? ”

I reply : Because a paltry, parasitic, useless, one-ninth of the population absorbs nearly 50 per cent. of the national income and own seven-eighths of the whole wealth of the country; because less than one-thousandth per cent. of the population owns more than 50 per cent. of the total area of land ; because 5 millions of the lazy plunder 38 millions of the industrious; because of these and scores of similar facts, are 13 millions of wealth producers to be perpetually on the brink of starvation ? Are nearly 90,000 human beings to die in workhouses, lunatic asylums and similar institutions annually ? Are 120,000 workers, the only people who matter, to be robbed of life or limb every year, whilst creating wealth they never enjoy ? Are nearly a million fellow-creatures to be so reduced by privation that they are compelled to claim public assistance and become, despite the repressive measures adopted by “sweet chariity,” paupers, in the midst of collosal wealth?

A million married women are compelled to work for wages. What of home life ? And childhood’s days so sweet in the remembering? Nearly 140 in every 1,000 never have any childhood’s days to remember, for they die before their first year of “life” is completed. And family life too ! What of that ? Yes, what of family life ? The average age of the worker is 29 years. The lunacy figures have doubled during the last 40 years. The unemployed problem becomes ever more intense. The worker’s wife and children have now to turn out on the labour market and help to keep a roof over their heads until the arrival of the undertaker—at the age of 29 or thereabouts.

“The home is to go” wails the Express. “Family life too” it sobs. Pass on ! it makes one peevish.

And now what of the Socialist proposals. Of course volumes could be written and have been written upon the institutions of religion and marriage. But briefly, very briefly, the position occupied by the Socialist in viewing the institutions named is very simple and readily understood. It is this.

Before man can formulate a religion, or a social custom like marriage, it is fairly apparent that he must be living in a community, and that the nature of that community will depend largely upon the methods by which the material wants, primarily food, are supplied. For instance, where animal or vegetable food is difficult of access, there, as history shows, one can confidently expect to find cannibalism. The social customs of that community will be an exact reflex of the way they are compelled to get their living. Their god will be as partial to human flesh as they. Their frailties, passions and virtues will find a truthful mirror in their deity. This is so historically and logically true that the wonder is that any person is to be found who, having given a very moderate amount of study to the question, can for a moment doubt it. Take the ancient Norsemen : men of pillage, rapine and plunder ; wild, restless, roving pirates, as fond of wine as they were of war. Their gods, Thor, Wodin, etc., were glorified counterparts of themselves. Higher in the scale the Greeks, a people who had brought the arts to a marvellous pitch of perfection, personified the arts and graces, that is, they made their gods and goddesses after their own image, and then deified and worshipped them. With the decay of the Greek civilisation, their deities died of the same complaint. So that as regards religion the Socialist position should be fairly clear. Change the economic condition of a people and their god or gods obediently dance to the altered tune. A moment’s reflection should make this abundantly clear. Even in the case of Christianity it is continually changing as the minds of its adherents change. “It is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdon of Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” said Christianity’s great expositor 2,000 years ago. But a system of society has arisen in which the rich capitalist is looked upon as the mainspring by which Society is enabled to move: a society in which the followers of the humble Nazarene become the possessors of enormous wealth. And—mark what happens. Dr. Akeds arise in scores to prove that Christ did not really mean it. Theologians go to extreme pains to prove that the eye of a needle was something entirely different to our domestic implement. The camel’s task was really very easy : only a bit of a squeeze and he was through. Same with the rich man, and so on.

And now regarding the custom of marriage. There is something decidedly humorous in the spectacle of the introducers of the Divorce Courts reproaching anyone with sinister designs upon the “sacred contract.” The severing of the marriage tie by means of divorce is a measure that surely no one will lay to the door of the Socialists. And who is it that fills the Divorce Court ? The very people who are now accusing the Socialist of designs upon the purity and sanctity of home life. Who are the greatest patrons of the horrible social ulcer known as prostitution ? The question is almost automatically answered. Regent Strest and Piccadilly are not working-class quarters; they are not even, remotely “tainted” with the “canker of Socialism.” Yet the bare names of these thoroughfares have become synonymous for the vice which flourishes, unashamed and practically unchecked, upon them. The average man (who is not a Socialist) will tell you that prostitution is a necessary evil, and that the unfortunates who are its victims should receive State recognition and be licensed, as on the Continent. The upholders of the present system cannot conceive of human society without it. “It always has been and always will be” sums up the whole of their philosophy.

The true Socialist position is that the present marriage contract is by no means the last word to be said upon the subject. History shows that as the economic basis of human society has changed, so the customs of that society have altered, including, necessarily, marriage. The present social system is based upon the ownership of private property, and the marriage contract is in essence a property contract. The single sentence from the Marriage Service, “with all my worldly goods I thee endow” is indicative of this, especially as the recipient of this cornucopean shower immediately surrenders all control over it by promising to “love, honour and obey” the benevolent “bestower.” The Married Women’s Property Act legalises the holding of property by married women, but even this becomes an expedient by means of which the bankrupt can secure some of his “hard-earned” plunder against the inroads of his swindled creditors, provided he has sufficient foresight.

It should be clear, then, that present-day society is organised upon a basis of private property in the means whereby the wealth creators live and that necessarily the customs of Society will partake of the general structure. With the change in the basis, necessarily the superstructure must follow suit. Abolish a ssystem where the mainspring of all effort is the glorification, and aggrandisement of the individual at the expense of the community ; where the ideal is tersely expressed as “every man for himself and devil take the hindmost,” and substitute a community whose driving factor shall be collective effort for the mental and material well-being of all, and whose chief concern shall he the free and unfettered development of all its component units ; abolish the one, we say, and substitute the other and the way is easy for a marriage based upon mutual esteem; upon Love in actuality and not as at present, merely as an accessory after the fact—the fact of the possession of a “decent berth” or a banking account.

One thing the Express and those of its kidney appear to overlook is this. In any society where woman were the social equal of man, is it to be imagined for one moment that she would acquiesce in anything the Express portion of the population cared to suggest? No ! Capitalist morals, bourgeois ethics, would follow the Express into the oblivion of a hideous past. Under Socialism there will be no sex barrier. Elementary logic would appear to show that the individuals most interested, or rather more affected, by social changes, should at least be among the first to be consulted. It does not seem to have occurred to the Express that woman would have a voice in the ordering of her sex-relationship. Need her answer be anticipated ? Think it over !


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