50 Years Ago: Rival Paradises

General Booth says: “The Socialists want to make the world a paradise without having a paradise people.” Is the General fearful of the competition of a paradise here below with his problematic paradise to come? Or does he expect hell to breed angels?

The Socialist knows that a paradise people could only be born of paradise conditions; but Christians expect figs to grow on thistles.

And does not this reveal a fundamental cleavage between Socialism and Christianity? The Christian looks on man as the creator of his circumstances; the Socialist looks on man as the product without, of course, ignoring the reflex action of past environment through the individual.

The environment is almost all-powerful, and the secret of the promise of man’s future mastery lies in his growing knowledge of the laws of material development and his consequent greater adaptability to those laws.

To the Christian, evolution is man-made; to the Socialist, evolution has made man.

Well does the General serve his masters by directing the gaze of the poor from the material conditions to mansions in the sky; but his chief merit must be, in the eyes of the masters, to have organized the greatest “free labour” association in existence.

(Socialist Standard, April 1908)

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