50 Years Ago: The Age of Cant

Summing up the “Morality of Capitalism”, what is the distinctive feature by which it is distinguished from that of other class-divided societies? It is undeniably that hypocritical taint which pervades it through and through, and which is seen in the glaring contrast which is presented between the moral theory professed and the actual moral reality practised.

This moral hypocrisy is the inevitable outcome of the social relations immanent in capitalism. It results from the antagonisms which exist in the system; partly from struggle between individuals and groups of individuals, but primarily from that antagonism which exists between the interests of the bourgeoisie on the one hand, and of the proletariat on the other.

Every activity of the bourgeoisie in its own interest must be undertaken, professedly in the interests of the workers, or more correctly, of ‘society as a whole’. For the ‘unity of society’ and of its interests is a cardinal dogma, in which the very existence of classes is often denied. ‘Democracy, Liberty, and Humanity’ have been the watchwords of the bourgeois society, but words only, for in their name more horrible and sickening atrocities have been perpetrated than in any previous period in history.

There is hypocrisy and deceit everywhere, from the lying and trickery of trades and the cant about ‘the honour of our public men’, to the veneer of religious orthodoxy and the ‘love’ that in conventional belief cements the economic contract we call ‘marriage’. Verily our time has rightly been called ‘the age of cant’.

From an article “Society and Morals” by R. W. Housley. Socialist Standard, May 1918.