The forces of opposition

It is only when one considers all the manifold forces that are arrayed against the propagation of Socialism that the enormity of the task undertaken by the Socialist Party can in any degree be gauged. Not that any discouragement need be felt at this, however. The economic forces in society itself, working slowly but surely ; the destructive criticism and analysis of capitalism, the affirmation of the Socialist philosophy, given from the platform and Press of the Socialist Party, are inevitably converging towards that time when capitalism shall fall and Socialism stand in its stead.

Still, it is well to take stock occasionally of what is to be faced. The ostrich-like policy of refusing to recognise the strength of the opposition cannot conduce to progress.

Besides the orthodox political parties—Liberal, Tory, and so-called Labour—besides the open hostility of the religious denominations, we have all sorts of method a resorted to by all sorts of people in attempts—vain attempts—to hold back the rising tide of Socialist thought. Openly or covertly, by frank opposition or by traitorous ostensible adherence, the agents of capitalism by speeches from their various platforms , sermons from their pulpits, or articles in their Press, are doing their utmost to turn the minds of the workers away from the mental path that leads to their emancipation.

Liberal and Tory politicians put forward programmes which they claim will palliate and make bearable the unbearable evils of caputalism. Leaders of pseudo-Socialist parties and pseudo-Labour parties propagate confusion in order to further their own financial or ambitious ends. Church of England clergymen and laymen gloomily deplore the fact of working-class discontent, attempt to substitute religious emotion for scientific thought among their flocks, and when this fails, preach a bastard sociology applicable neither to man, woman nor beast.

The Reverend Campbells and the Dr. Cliffords teach what they think, or pretend to think, is a new democratic view of Christianity, a “New Theology,” which “Mew Theology ” collapses when found to be at variance with their material prosperity.

The Roman Catholic Church sends its agents all over the world insidiously to combat Socialism by means of false promises, fair speeches on the moral duty of master and man, and all the arts so well known and well practiced by the servants of the Papacy.

The Press, commercialised and prostituted to an extent perhaps never before known in the history of letters, panders to the basest instincts of the basest section of the community, or gives to its readers a sentimental and enervating outlook on life that is even more obnoxious.

A formidable opposition, this, truly, but not impregnable.

It is essential, however, that as opportunity arises, these various phases of capitalistic thought shall be criticised from the Socialist standpoint, and their fallacies and crudities exposed in their true colours. The present article is concerned with one such phase, viz., the position held by the Roman Catholic Church relative to the working class.

A pamphlet published by the Catholic Truth Society, entitled “The Condition of the Working Classes,” and written by the late Pope Leo XIII., with an up-to-date introduction by the Right Rev. Mgr. Parkinson, D.D., has come into the possession of the present writer through a friend, to whom it was sent by an admitted agent of the Catholic Church.

The opinions expressed in the brochure may therefore be taken as those of official Roman Catholicism.

It starts out by admitting the appalling condition of the working class and the immediate need for remedying that condition. It says :

“That the spirit of revolutionary change, which has long been disturbing the nations of the world, should have passed beyond the sphere of politics and made its influence felt in the cognate sphere of practical economics is not surprising. The elements of the conflict now raging are unmistakable, in the vast expansion of industrial pursuits and the marvellous discoveries of science; in the changed relations between masters and workmen ; in the enormous fortunes of ome few individuals, and the utter poverty of the masses; in the increased self-reliance and closer mutual combination of the working classes ; as also, finally, in the prevailing moral degeneracy . . But all agree, and there can be no question whatever, that some remedy must be found, and found quickly, for the misery and wretchedness pressing so heavily and unjustly at this moment on the vast majority of the working classes. … A small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the very poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself.”

The writer of the pamphlet condemns in its entirety the Socialist solution of the problem, viz., the abolition of private property and the establishment in its place of common ownership of the means of life. He says :

“If he (i.e., the working man) lives sparingly, saves money, and, for greater security, invests his savings in land, the land, in such case, is only his wages in another form ; and, consequently, a working-man’s little estate, thus purchased, should be as completely at his full disposal as are the wages he receives for his labour.”

Just so. But now, perhaps, some Roman Catholic political economist will explain in what way the utterly impoverished masses, the miserable and wretched vast majority of the working class, the teeming masses of the labouring poor under a yoke little better than slavery itself (vide above extracts) are to live more sparingly than they do, save money and invest it in land or anything else, even the smallest of “little estates.”

An amazing paragraph, as coming from an opponent of Socialism, comes a little later. By some unfathomable process of reasoning on the part of its writer, it is put forward with the intention of showing that private property is a natural right. It runs as follows :

“Is it just that the fruit of a man’s own sweat and labour should be possessed and enjoyed by anyone else ? As effects follow their cause, so is it just and right that the results of labonr should belong to those who have bestowed their labour.”

The Socialist will readily agree with this. And as all wealth is the result of the sweat and labour of the working class (a proposition which defies contradiction), then all wealth should belong to “those who have bestowed their labour,” that is, to the working class.

But, if this is so, all that has been said before in the pamphlet in support of the private ownership of the means of life is negated. If one were not assured of the strict infallibility of the Pope (it is. of course, well known that all Popes are infallible) it might be thought that he had here “slipped up” somehow.

The whole pamphlet is a mass of contradictory statements and absurdities. In one place it strongly deprecates the notion of such a thing as a class struggle in society, yet in another place it says : “On the one side there is the party which holds power because it holds wealth ; which has in its grasp the whole of labour and of trade ; which manipulates for its own benefit and its own purposes all the sources of supply, and which is even represented in the councils of the State itself. On the other side there is the needy and powerless multitude, broken down and suffering, and ever ready for disturbance.”

Between two such classes of people what can there ever be but the bitterest antagonism ? To talk, as the pamphleteer does, about “Both classes uniting in friendship and brotherly love” is, in the face of the above extract, either nonsensical vapouring or rank hypocrisy.

What strikes one particularly about the document at present in question is the tone adopted toward the working class. The rich, it would appear, stand on a higher plane than the poor. They (the rich) must be exalted in the eyes of the workers, must be respected, obeyed, admired and feared. The poor for their part are told to be content, are told that “poverty is no disgrace,” that suffering must exist, are invited to come to God for solace in their misery, have held up before them the “blessed” poverty of Jesus Christ; have foisted upon them all the devilish slave-morality upon which Christianity is based.

In the eyes of Roman Catholicism, if you are rich it is because, through the mercy of God, your virtues have brought you wealth ; if you are poor, poverty is a blessing and it is your virtues that have brought you (always through the mercy of God) your “misery and wretchedness,” your “yoke of slavery.” Everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.

The cry is “be content here and a crown of glory awaits thee hereafter” ; be content, poverty is inevitable, what use is it to kick against the pricks ? Do not strike, trust to your employers and the State. If you must form yourselves into associations let them be not Trade Unions—above all not a Socialist society—but come into the “Confraternities, Societies, and Religious Orders which have arisen by the Church’s authority and the piety of Christian men.” And last, but not least, obey implicitly the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, trust in God and all will be well.

We for our part call upon the workers to take steps to order their lives in the light of their own intelligence. In the Socialist philosopBy there is no room for the God hypothesis. When the working class at last awakens from its long sleep of apathy and ignorance (it is awakening) Gods and Popes and priests and all the other paraphernalia of inherited superstition will pass with the rest of capitalism, to be relegated to the limbo of forgotten things.

That the awakening may come speedily is the one wish of the present writer.


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