Catholicism or Socialism, Which?

It is to the credit of the Socialist Party that—thanks to its correct understanding of the economic, political, and religious forces of present-day society—it has unflinchingly and unhesitatingly attacked the reactionary forces of society, no matter under what denomination or guise such forces appeared.

Such a one is the Catholic Church, which, whilst the proletariat of Europe are bleeding for the money sharks of the world, and whilst the Socialist Party has been gagged by the tyrants of society, has sought to show once again to the masters how truly reactionary it is.

At the Annual Conference of the Catholic Truth Society of Ireland, at which several distinguished French ecclesiastics were present, the Bishop of Cork gave the inaugural address on “The Condition of the Worker,” which was a review of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical. I shall cull some of the gems of the Bishop’s speech as reported in “Freeman’s Journal” of October 12th, so as to show unmistakably on which side stands the Catholic Church, despite its cant about truth—for or against the workers.

The Most Reverend Dr. Cohalan, Bishop of Cork, to give him his full title, at the outset of his address, summed up the Pope’s position thus :

“He admonished the workers that the improvement of their condition was not to be sought for through violence or by confiscation, that the right to one’s property is a primal right from nature. He reminded the capitalists and employers generally, that the worker is not a machine, but a human being, that he is entitled to a living wage for a honest day’s labour.”

So you see, reader, that the Pope warns you to be of good behaviour. Never you think of disturbing the peace of a country ; that must be left to diplomats and rulers. What you must do is to work honestly, and what honesty is must, of course, be left to the decision of the sacred pontiff—for who dare question the honesty of so divine a person ?

Leaving the Pope’s teaching, we will watch for honest guidance from our reverend bishop. He says :

“If one were an out-and-out evolutionist : if one believed that there is no God, or that we don’t know whether there be a God or not ; that the different orders of things and the phenomena of the universe have been produced by the physical forces of nature, unguided and uncontrolled by a Divine mind and will, that a struggle for existence, in which the weak disappear and the strong come out victorious, is a universal law of nature, ; one should conclude that the law of “the struggle for existence” and the law that “the strong must vanquish,” or that “might is right” must dominate the domain of capitalist and worker as well as the other departments of nature.”

Now one would naturally think that after the bishop—who denies the foregoing as a correct happening—had delivered the same, he would have attempted to show where it was wrong. But he has evidently been taught by his elders that it is dangerous for children to play with fire.

When, however, these people tread on dangerous ground, they have a simple method of getting out of the difficulty—they trust in God.

Now Socialists would have no objection to trusting in God if it was found that the workers could be benefited thereby. But we find that the proletariat, after worshipping God for thousands of years, are in a worse plight than ever they were, that they are more enchained to-day than at any other recorded time. And when we examine the situation we find one of the main factors in keeping the wage-slaves in subjection is the trusting by the workers in a supposed power outside themselves. The fault of the workers all along has been their trust in others than themselves. Had they relied upon themselves they would not have allowed labour fakirs like Henderson & Co. to delude them. The history of the Church shows that it has been nothing else than an instrument which the State, i.e., the forces of oppression, wields to enslave the mass of the people.

But for all that we Socialists must be silly people to oppose this charitable bishop, for look what he promises us !

“That all are destined for everlasting life in the Kingdom of God, where there will be no hunger or thirst or cold or unsanitary habitation, or conflict of labour and capital ; where every desire will be satisfied in the abundance of the Father’s house and Kingdom.”

Really, if such rubbish could be tolerated by the workers, is it any wonder that they are assassinating each other, especially seeing that they are to have such a good time rotting in the ground—pardon, bishop, I mean lounging in the Kingdom of God ? But, of course, it would not do for all the wage-slaves to commit suicide so as to enter the “Kingdom of God” all the sooner, for then they would not be serving their God—or what is the same thing, the master class, who thrive on the workers’ energy.

So, after a dilatory talk on “Christian truth” (save the mark), the priest becomes more practical and talks about Socialism, and it is on this question that he shows up clearly the I.L.P., the B.S.P., or any other body which falsely goes under the name of Socialist. He divides Socialism into four classes. First, communistic Socialism, a kind of Utopia preached by Anarchists ; secondly, collectivist Socialism, which, cleared of its ambiguities, would nearly suit the Socialist Party ; thirdly, State or Municipal Socialism ; and fourthly, Co-operative Socialism. The bishop feels rather dubious about calling the last two classes Socialism, for he says, “it is questionable whether the name ‘Socialism’ is applicable at all to some of these theories.” It is with these latter two classes that the bishop proves that the I.L.P., the B.S.P, and kindred organisations are good reactionary parties. Listen to what he says :

“I will consider State Socialism. And I might say that it was collectivism or commumsm alone that was condemned by the Pope, and that necessarily State or municipal Socialism does not fall under the condemnation of the Encyclical unless and in so far as it implies the principles of Collectivism. States and municipalities take over, some one and some another of the following : The post and telegraph systems, railways and tramways, water supply, lighting, tobacco, land, public parks, burial places, slaughter houses. Two questions arise in relation to these State enterprises : First, do they imply a denial of private ownership ; and, secondly, does the State, in these undertakings, go outside its proper sphere and interfere with the just rights of private enterprise. Now the taking over of these services by the State as it is actually done is not Socialism. It does not imply a denial of private ownership, or of succession, or of the wage-earning system. The employees of the State are wage earners. If they make savings they can invest their economies in land, or industrial or commercial concerns.”

The reverend gentleman then goes on to say that co-operative and co-partnership concerns (such as Sir William Lever is advocating to “harmonise capital and labour”), are not Socialism. But let us see what he says of his “Collective Socialism,” that which concerns us most.

“Collective Socialism advocates the abolition o£ private ownership, not in all things, but in all things necessary for production : in land, in mines, in all raw material, in industrial buildings, in the means of transport. Collectivism allies itself with the Darwinian theory of evolution and calls itself scientific Socialism. Its advocates favour what is called economic concentration, that is, the absorption of all small industries by the great capitalist enterprises. They say that is the trend of evolution. And when all the small industries shall have been absorbed, then by an inexorable law of evolution the capitalists will be cast out, and the workers will become the masters of the house. Meanwhile the Collectivist leaders advocate a class war between workers and capitalists, as the most effective means to bring about the social revolution.”

Rather funny advocating a class war for a revolution that will be brought about by that “inexorable law.” The bishop goes on :

“Now Collective Socialism falls under the condemnation of the Pope. From the moral point of view its principal specific error and vice consists in its denial of private ownership of land, raw material, and the various means of transport.”

I have purposely quoted lengthily from the address to show that, as Socialists contend, a member of the I.L.P., the B.S.P., or other pseudo Socialist party, can be a religious person for the simple reason that he does not oppose the established regime, viz., capitalism, whilst the Socialist, who must oppose capitalism, whether it be in the form of State or of private enterprise, cannot be religious. The Socialist knows that religion can only flourish where there is ignorance, and since the Socialist is out to educate and enlighten his fellow man, he must be antagonistic to all forms of religion.

After talking about Socialism the bishop comes to the question of a living wage. Rather a pity that it must be a living wage. What kind of a living, did you ask, reader ? Do you expect, a pontiff’s living ? Well, the worker must be frugal and temperate, and the wife must help to contribute to the husband’s income so as to keep down his wage as low as possible, otherwise he also will be condemned by the Pope. If the workers are sick and destitute, they can be relieved, says the kind-hearted bishop, by charity.

Is it not time the workers acquired the knowledge and intelligence to ignore the parasites of society, including the Catholic clergy, and set about changing completely the present order of society, with all its hellishness, to a social system where the whole fruits of their toil shall be their reward ? For this Socialists strive.

Before leaving our bishop in his ramblings I should like to quote one more passage from his address. He says :

“The voice of Socialism is more or less hushed by the war. But the conflict between labour and capital is not over. Socialism may become active.”

Yes, indeed, the struggle between the labouring class and the employing class is not over. The masters will attempt rivet the chains of slavery ever more firmly round the bodies of their wage-slaves, but you may rest assured, good bishop, that the Socialist Party, whoever is left to compose it after the present “bloody mess,” will not waver in its work of speeding the day when the death-knell of capitalism will be sounded, so that in its stead can be established the Socialist Commonwealth.

Let all who have the emancipation of the working class at heart study our principles and policy and help in the “great push.”

M. L.

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