1900s >> 1908 >> no-51-november-1908

Socialism v. Religion

Mr H. M. Hyndman, having been badly mangled (by his brother Rothstein and others) on the German war scare issue which, in conjunction with brother Blatchford, he was good enough to offer the general Press as an excellent subject for a silly season discussion, has broken out in a fresh place. We have now to beware of the Roman Catholic Church. Protestantism has been played out “by the growth of popular science and freethought,” but apparently the same growth is playing in the power of the Pope, or the religious organisation the Pope is the figurehead of. Really, H. M. H. has mistaken his vocation. He should be where positive genius for “scare heads” would be appreciated. He is the silly season writer par excellence. He can provide an acceptable substitute for the great gooseberry every time.

Clericalism, high church, low church, Roman church, “Labour” church, and tin Bethelism of any calibre, are all in the ruck of reaction. Their power for evil depends, so far as we are concerned, upon the measure of working-class ignorance prevailing. Given that change in social conditions that will free men economically, the religious forms and influences which have been built up and maintained upon economic subjection, must go. Our business, therefore, is to direct the working-class mind toward that change of social conditions.

But does not the influence of the churches tell against our efforts ? It does where it can, of course, but its effect is not one to be troubled about, and very far indeed from being strong enough to warrant our departure from the course mapped out for us. The forces that affect the stomach are on our side. The armies of mankind move upon their stomachs. A starving man, offered the bread that perishes or the water of life, grabs at the bread every time—naturally.

The evolution of industry creates the starving man. We show him the way by which alone he may find the full satisfaction of his needs. The churches pretend to show him the way to heaven. The hollowness of the pretence may not appeal to him. The emptiness of the offer does. Hence the dilemma of the churches and their efforts to compromise on blankets and coal tickets. But it won’t do. The futility of charitable schemes and the offence of charitable schemes are alike too palpable. The Socialist alone holds the field. He alone can show the reason for the starving man. He alone can show the starving man the road to the ever full dinner pail.

Therefore we need not trouble about the churches. If they get too near our path we may give them a passing thump with the club of our argument. We can do that in our stride. As for concentrating upon the iniquity of “the Holy Catholic Church,” or turning out of our path to engage it, that is sheer Hyndmaniacal nonsense. The Holy Catholic Church may go hang. When we have nothing more important to do it might well be possible to amuse ourselves by crumpling it up. But we have a long way to go before we can afford the time.

ALEGRA

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