Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (1935).


The Case for Socialism

The great majority of Socialists, in the present day, are disciples of Karl Marx, from whom they have taken over the belief that the only possible political force by which Socialism can be brought about is the anger felt by the dispossessed proletariat against the owners of the means of production. By an inevitable reaction, those who are not proletarians have decided, with comparatively few exceptions, that Socialism is something to be resisted; and when they hear the class-war being preached by those who proclaim themselves as their enemies, they naturally feel inclined to begin the war themselves while they still hold the power. Fascism is a retort to Communism, and a very formidable retort. So long as Socialism is preached in Marxist terms, it rouses such powerful antagonism that its success, in developed Western countries, becomes daily more improbable. It would, of course, have aroused opposition from the rich in any case, but the opposition would have been less fierce and less widespread.

For my part, while I am as convinced a Socialist as the most ardent Marxian, I do not regard Socialism as a gospel of proletarian revenge, nor even, primarily, as a means of securing economic justice. I regard it primarily as an adjustment to machine production demanded by considerations of common sense, and calculated to increase the happiness, not only of proletarians, but of all except a tiny minority of the human race. If it cannot now be realized without a violent upheaval, this to be attributed largely to the violence of its advocates. But I still have some hope that a saner advocacy may soften the opposition, and make a less catastrophic transition possible.

Let us begin by a definition of Socialism. The definition must consist of two parts, economic and political. The economic part consists in State ownership of ultimate economic power, which involves, as a minimum, land and minerals, capital, banking, credit and foreign trade. The political part requires that the ultimate political power should be democratic. Marx himself, and practically all Socialists before 1918, would have agreed to this part of the definition without question, but since the Bolsheviks dissolved the Russian Constituent Assembly, a different doctrine has grown up, according to which, when a Socialist Government has achieved success by revolution, only its most ardent supporters are to have political power. Now it must, of course, be admitted that, after a civil war, it is not always possible to enfranchise the vanquished immediately, but, in so far as this is the case, it is not possible to establish Socialism immediately. A Socialist Government which has carried out the economic part of Socialism will not have completed its task until it has secured enough popular support to make democratic government possible. The necessity of democracy is evident if we take an extreme case. An Oriental despot may decree that all the natural resources in his territory shall be his, but is not, in so doing, establishing a Socialist regime; nor can the rule of Leopold II of the Congo be accepted as a model for imitation. Unless there is popular control, there can be no reason to expect the State to conduct its economic enterprises except for its own enrichment, and therefore exploitation will merely take a new form. Democracy, accordingly, must be accepted as part of the definition of a Socialist regime.

With regard to the economic part of the definition, some further elucidation is necessary, since there are forms of private enterprise which some would consider compatible with Socialism while others would hold the opposite view. Should a pioneer be allowed to build himself a log hut on a piece of land rented from the State? Yes, but it does not follow that private individuals should be allowed to build skyscrapers in New York. Similarly a man may lend a shilling to a friend, but a financier may not lend ten millions to a company or a foreign Government. The matter is one of degree, and is easy to adjust, since various legal formalities are necessary in large transactions, but not in small ones. Where such formalities are indispensable, they give the State opportunity to exercise control. To take another instance: jewellery is not capital in the economic sense, since it is not a means of production, but as things are a man who possesses diamonds can sell them and [78] buy shares. Under Socialism he may still possess diamonds, but he cannot sell them to buy shares, since there will be no shares to be bought. Private wealth need not be legally prohibited, but only private investment, with the result that, since no one will be in receipt of interest, private wealth will gradually melt away except as regards a reasonable modicum of personal possessions. Economic power over other human beings must not belong to individuals, but such private property as does not confer economic power may survive.

The advantages to be expected from the establishment of Socialism, supposing this to be possible without a devastating revolutionary war, are of many different kinds, and are by no means confined to the wage-earning class. I am far from confident that all or any of these advantages would result from the victory of a Socialist party in a long and difficult class conflict, which would exacerbate tempers, bring to the fore a ruthless militaristic type, waste by death or exile or imprisonment the talents of many valuable experts, and give to the victorious Government a barrack-room type of mentality. The merits which I shall claim for Socialism all presuppose that it will have been brought about by persuasion, and that such force as may be necessary will consist only of the defeat of small bands of malcontents. I am persuaded that, if Socialist propaganda were conducted with less hate and bitterness, appealing not to envy but to the obvious need of economic organization, the task of persuasion would be enormously facilitated, and the need for force correspondingly diminished. I deprecate the appeal to force, except in defence of what, through persuasion, has become legally established, because (a) it is likely to fail, (b) the struggle must be disastrously destructive, and (c) the victors, after an obstinate fight, are likely to have forgotten their original objects, and to institute something quite different, probably a military tyranny. I presuppose, therefore, as a condition for successful Socialism, the peaceful persuasion of a majority to acceptance of its doctrines.

I shall adduce nine arguments in favour of Socialism, none of them new, and not all of equal importance. The list could be indefinitely lengthened, but I think these nine should suffice to show that it is not a gospel for one class only.

1. The Breakdown of the Profit Motive

Profit, as a separate economic category, only becomes clear at a certain stage of industrial development. The germ of it, however, might be seen in the relations of Robinson Crusoe and his Man Friday. Let us suppose that, in the autumn, Robinson Crusoe, by means of his gun, has acquired control of the whole food supply of his island. He is then in a position to cause Friday to work at the preparation of next year's harvest, on the understanding that Friday shall be kept alive while all the surplus shall go to his employer. What Robinson Crusoe receives under this contract may be regarded as interest on his capital, his capital being his few tools and the stored-up food which he possesses. But profit, as it occurs in more civilized conditions, involves the further circumstance of exchange. A cotton manufacturer, for example, does not make cotton only for himself and his family; cotton is not the only thing he needs, and he has to sell the bulk of his produce in order to satisfy his other requirements. But before he can manufacture cotton he has to buy other things: raw cotton, machinery, labour, and power. His profit consists of the difference between what he pays for these things and what he receives for the finished product. But if he himself manages his factory, we must deduct whatever would have been the salary of a manager hired to do the same work; that is to say, the manufacturer's profit consists of his total earnings less the wages of the hypothetical manager. In large businesses, where the shareholders do no work of management, what they receive is the profit of the enterprise. Those who have money to invest are actuated by the expectation of profit, which is therefore the determining motive as to what new undertakings shall be started and what old ones shall be expanded. It has been supposed by the defenders of our present system that the expectation of profit would lead, on the whole, to the right commodities being produced in the right quantities. Up to a point, this has been true in the past, but it is true no longer.

This is a result of the complicated character of modern production. If I am an old-fashioned village cobbler, and the neighbours bring me their shoes to be mended, I know that the produce of my labour will be wanted; but if I am a large-scale manufacturer of shoes, employing expensive machinery, I have to [80] guess how many pairs of shoes I shall be able to sell, and I may easily guess wrong. Another man may have better machinery, and be able to sell shoes more cheaply; or my former customers may have grown poorer, and have learnt to make old shoes last longer, or the fashion may change, and people may demand a kind of shoe which my machines are unable to produce. If any of these things happen, not only do I cease to make a profit, but my machines stand idle and my employees are out of work. The labour that went into the making of my machines failed to result in the production of useful commodities, and was as completely wasted as if it had consisted of throwing sand into the sea. The men who are thrown out of employment are no longer creating anything that serves human needs, and the community is impoverished to the extent of whatever is spent on keeping them from starvation. The men, being dependent upon employment benefit instead of wages, spend much less than formerly, and therefore cause unemployment among those who make the goods which they formerly bought. And so the original miscalculation as to the number of shoes that I could sell at a profit produces gradually widening circles of unemployment, with accompanying diminution of demand. As for me, I am tethered to my expensive machinery, which has probably absorbed all my capital and credit; this makes it impossible for me to turn suddenly from shoes to some more prosperous industry.

Or take a more speculative business: ship-building. During the war, and for a little while afterwards, there was an immense demand for ships. As no one knew how long the war might last, or how successful the U-boats might be, enormously elaborate preparations were made for building unprecedented numbers of ships. By 1920, the war losses had been made good, and the need of ships, owing to the diminution of sea-borne trade, had suddenly grown much less. Almost all the shipbuilding plant became useless, and the great majority of the men employed were thrown out of of work. It cannot be said that they deserved this misfortune, since the Governments had urged them frantically to build ships as fast as they could. But under our system of private enterprise the Governments had no recognized responsibility towards those who had been rendered destitute. And inevitably the destitution [81] spread. There was less demand for steel, and therefore the iron and steel industry suffered. There was less demand for Australian and Argentine meat, because the unemployed had to be content with a spare diet. There was, as a result, less demand for the manufactures which Australia and the Argentine had taken in exchange for their meat. And so on indefinitely.

There is one further very important reason for the failure of the profit motive in the present day, and that is the failure of scarcity. It often happens that goods of certain kinds can be produced in enormous quantities at a cheaper rate than on a more modest scale. In that case, it may be that the most economical mode of production would be to have only one factory for each of these kinds of goods in the whole world. But as this state of affairs has come about gradually, there are in fact many factories. Each knows that if it were alone in the world it could supply everybody and make a large profit; but as it is, there are competitors, no one is working up to full capacity, and therefore no one is making a secure profit. This leads to economic imperialism, since the only possibility of profit lies in the exclusive control of some huge market. Meanwhile the weaker competitors go under, and the larger the units the greater is the dislocation when one of them closes down. Competition leads to so much being produced that it cannot be sold at a profit; but the reduction in the supply is unduly slow, since, where there is much expensive machinery, it may be less disastrous to produce for a term of years at a loss than not to produce at all.

All these confusions and dislocations result from leaving modern large-scale industry to be directed by the motive of private profit.

In a capitalistic regime, the cost which determines whether a certain product shall be manufactured by a certain firm is the cost to that firm, not to the community. Let us illustrate the difference by an imaginary example. Suppose someone -- say Mr Henry Ford -- finds out a way of making motor-cars so cheaply that no one else can compete, with the result that all the other firms engaged in making cars go bankrupt. In order to arrive at the cost to the community of one of the new cheap cars, one must add, to what Mr Ford would have to pay, the proper proportion of all the now useless plant belonging to other firms, and of the cost of rearing [82] and educating those workers and managers previously employed by other firms but now out of work. (Some will obtain employment with Mr Ford, but probably not all, since the new process is cheaper, and therefore requires less labour.) There may well also be other expenses to the community -- labour disputes, strikes, riots, extra police, trials and imprisonments. When all these items are taken into account, it may well be found that the cost of the new cars to the community is, at first, considerably greater than that of the old ones. Now it is the cost to the community which determines what is socially advantageous, while the cost to the individual manufacturer which determines, in our system, what takes place.

How Socialism would deal with this problem I shall explain at a later stage.

2. The Possibility of Leisure
(I shall treat this topic briefly, since it is discussed in the first essay of this volume.)

Owing to the productivity of machines, much less work than was formerly necessary is now needed to maintain a tolerable standard of comfort in the human race. Some careful writers maintain that one hour's work a day would suffice, but perhaps this estimate does not take sufficient account of Asia. I shall assume, in order to be quite sure of being on the safe side, that four hours' work a day on the part of all adults would suffice to produce as much material comfort as reasonable people ought to desire.

At present, however, owing to the operation of the profit motive, leisure cannot be distributed evenly: some are overworked, while others are wholly unemployed. This results as follows: the value of the wage-earner to the employer depends upon the amount of work he does, which, so long as the hours do not exceed seven or eight, is supposed by the employer to be proportional to the length of the working day. The wage-earner, on the other hand, prefers a rather long day at good wages to a very short one at much lower wages. Hence it suits both parties to have a long working day, leaving those who, in consequence, are unemployed to starve or to be cared for by the public authorities at the public expense. [83]

Since the majority of the human race do not, at present, reach a reasonable level of material comfort, an average of less than four hours' work a day, wisely directed, would suffice to produce what is now produced in the way of necessaries and simple comforts. That means that, if the average working day for those who have work is eight hours, more than half the workers would be unemployed if it were not for certain forms of inefficiency and unnecessary production. To take first inefficiency: we have already seen some of the waste involved in competition, but we must add to this all that is spent in advertising and all the very skilled work that goes into marketing. Nationalism involves another kind of waste: American automobile manufacturers, for example, find it necessary, owing to tariffs, to establish works in the principal European countries, whereas it would obviously save labour if they could produce all their cars in one huge establishment in the United States. Then there is the waste involved in armaments, and in military training, which involves the whole male population wherever there is compulsory military service. Thanks to these and other forms of extravagance, together with the luxuries of the rich, more than half the population is still employed. But so long as our present system lasts, every step towards the elimination of waste can only make the plight of the wage-earners even worse than it is now.

3. Economic Insecurity

In the present state of the world, not only are many people destitute, but the majority of those who are not are haunted by a perfectly reasonable fear that they may become so at any moment. Wage-earners have the constant danger of unemployment; salaried employees know that their firm may go bankrupt or find it necessary to cut down its staff; business men, even those who are reputed to be very rich, know that the loss of all their money is by no means improbable. Professional men have a very hard struggle. After making great sacrifices for the education of their sons and daughters, they find that there are not the openings that there used to be for those who have the kinds of skill that their children have acquired. If they are lawyers, they find that people can no longer afford to go to law, although serious injustices remain unremedied; [84] if they are doctors, they find that their formerly lucrative hypochondriac patients can no longer afford to be ill, while many genuine sufferers have to forgo much-needed medical treatment. One finds men and women of university education serving behind the counters in shops, which may save them from destitution, but only at the expense of those who would formerly have been so employed. In all classes, from the lowest to almost the highest, economic fear governs men's thoughts bv dav and their dreams at night, making their work nerve-racking and their leisure unrefreshing. This ever-present terror is, I think, the main cause of the mood of madness which has swept over great parts of the civilized world.

The desire for wealth is, in most cases, due to a desire for security. Men save money and invest it, in the hope of having something to live on when they become old and infirm, and of being able to prevent their children from sinking in the social scale. In former days, this hope was rational, since there were such things as safe investments. But now security has become unattainable: the largest businesses fail, States go bankrupt, and whatever still stands is liable to be swept away in the next war. The result, except for those who continue to live in a fool's paradise, is a mood of unhappy recklessness, which makes a sane consideration of possible remedies very difficult.

Economic, security would do more to increase the happiness of civilized communities than any other change that can be imagined, except the prevention of war. Work -- to the extent that may be socially necessary -- should be legally obligatory for all healthy adults, but their income should depend only upon their willingness to work, and should not cease when, for some reason, their services are temporarily unnecessary. A medical man, for example, should receive a certain salary, ceasing only with his death, though he would not be expected to work after a certain age. He should be sure of a good education for his children. If the health of the community improved so much that there was no longer need of the direct medical services of all qualified practitioners, some of them should be employed in medical research or in investigating measures of sanitation or the promotion of a more adequate diet. I do not think it can be doubted that the great majority of medical [85] men would be happier under such a system than they are at present, even if it involved a diminution jn the rewards of the few who achieve eminent success.

The desire tor exceptional wealth is by no means a necessary stimulus to work. At present, most men work, not in order to be rich, but in order to avoid starvation A postman does not expect to become richer than other postmen, nor does a soldier or sailor hope to amass a fortune by serving his country. There are a few men, it is true -- and they tend to be men of exceptional energy and importance -- to whom the achievement of a great financial success is a dominant motive. Some do good, others do harm; some make or adopt a useful invention, others manipulate the stock exchange or corrupt politicians. But in the main what they want is success, of which money is the symbol. If success were only obtainable in other forms, such as honours or important administrative posts, they would still have an adequate incentive, and might find it more necessary than they do no- J to work in ways advantageous to the community. The desire tor wealth in itself, as opposed to the desire for success, is not a socially useful motive, any more than the desire for excess in eating or drinking. A social system is therefore none the worse for leaving no outlet to this desire. On the other hand, a system which abolished insecurity would do away with most of the hysteria of modern life.

4. The Unemployed Rich

The evils of unemployment among wage-earners are generally recognized. The suffering to themselves, the loss of their labour to the community, and the demoralizing effect of prolonged failure to find work, are such familiar themes that it is unnecessary to enlarge upon them.

The unemployed rich are an evil of a different sort. The world is full of idle people, mostly women, who have little education, much money, and consequently great self-confidence. Owing to their wealth, they are able to cause much labour to be devoted to their comfort. Although they seldom have any genuine culture, they are the the chief patrons of art, which is not likely to please them unless it is bad. Their uselessness drives them into an unreal sentimentality, which causes them to dislike vigorous sincerity, [86] and to exercise a deplorable influence upon culture. Especially in America, where the men who make money are mostly too busy to spend it themselves, culture is largely dominated by women whose sole claim to respect is that their husbands possess the art of growing rich. There are those who maintain that capitalism is more favourable to art than Socialism would be, but I think they are remembering the aristocracies of the past and forgetting the plutocracies of the present.

The existence of the idle rich has other unfortunate results. Although, in the more important industries, the modern tendency is towards few large enterprises than many small ones, there are still many exceptions to this rule. Consider, for example, the number of unnecessary small shops in London. Throughout the parts where rich women do their shopping, there are innumerable hat shops, usually kept by Russian countesses, each professing to be a little more exquisite than any of the others. Their customers drift from one to the next, spending hours on a purchase which ought to be a matter of minutes. The labour of those who serve in the shops and the time of those who buy in them is alike wasted. And there is the further evil that the livelihood of a number of people becomes bound up with futility. The spending power of the very rich causes them to have large numbers of parasites who, however far removed from wealth they may be themselves, nevertheless fear that they would be ruined if there were no idle rich to buy their wares. All these people suffer morally, intellectually, and artistically from their dependence upon the indefensible power of foolish people.

5. Education

Higher education, at present, is mainly, though not entirely, confined to the children of the well-to-do. It sometimes happens, it is true, that working-class boys or girls reach the university by means of scholarships, but as a rule they have had to work so hard in the process that they are worn out and do not fulfil their early promise. The result of our system is that there is a great waste of ability: a boy or girl born of wage-earning parents may be of first-rate capacity in mathematics, or music, or science, but it is very unlikely that he or she will have a chance to exercise this [87] talent. Moreover, education, at least in England, is still infected through and through with snobbery: in private and elementary schools consciousness of class is imbibed by the pupils at every moment of their school life. And since education is, in the main, controlled by the State, it has to defend the status quo, and therefore must, as far as possible, blunt the critical faculties of young people and preserve them from 'dangerous thoughts'. All this, it must be admitted, is inevitable in any insecure regime, and is worse in Russia than in England or America. But while a Socialist regime might, in time, become sufficiently secure to be not afraid of criticism, it is now hardly possible that this should happen to a capitalistic regime, unless by the establishment of a slave State in which the workers receive no education at all. It is not to be expected, therefore, that the present defects in the educational system can be remedied until the economic system has been transformed.

6. The Emancipation of Women and the Welfare of Young Children

In spite of all that has been done in recent times to improve the status of women, the great majority of wives are still financially dependent upon their husbands. This dependence is in various ways worse than that of a wage-earner upon his employer. An employee can throw up his job, but for a wife this is difficult; moreover, however hard she has to work in keeping the house, she cannot claim money wages. So long as this state of affairs persists, it cannot be said that wives have anything approaching economic equality with men. Yet it is difficult to see how the matter can be remedied without the establishment of Socialism. It is necessary that the expense of children should be borne by the State rather than by the husband, and that married women, except during lactation and the latter part of pregnancy, should earn their living by work outside the home. This will require certain architectural reforms (considered in an earlier essay in this volume), and the establishment of nursery schools for very young children. For the children, as for their mothers, this will be a great boon, since children require conditions of space and light and diet which are impossible in a wage-earner's home, but can be provided cheaply in a nursery school.

A reform of this sort in the position of wives and the rearing of [88] young children may be possible without complete Socialism, and has even been carried out here and there on a small scale and incompletely. But it cannot be carried out adequately and completely except as part of a general economic transformation of society.

7. Art

Of the improvement to be expected in architecture from the introduction of Socialism, I have already spoken. Painting, in former days, accompanied and adorned spacious architecture, and may do so again when the squalid privacy engendered by our competitive fear of our neighbours has given place to a desire for communal beauty. The modern art of the cinema has immense possibilities which cannot develop while the motive of producers is commercial; in fact, many are of opinion that the USSR has come nearest to realizing their possibilities. How literature suffers from the commercial motive, every writer knows: almost all vigorous writing offends some group, and therefore makes sales less. It is difficult for writers not to measure their own merit by their royalties, and when bad work brings great pecuniary rewards it requires unusual firmness of character to produce good work and remain poor.

It must be admitted that Socialism might make matters even worse. Since publishing will be a State monopoly, it will be easy for the State to exercise an illiberal censorship, So long as there is violent opposition to the new regime, this will be almost unavoidable. But when the transition period is passed it may be hoped that books which the State is not willing to accept on their merits may be published if the author thinks it worth while to defray the expense by working overtime. Since the hours will be short, this will be no excessive hardship, but it will suffice to deter authors who are not seriously convinced that their books contain something of value. It is important that it should be possible to get a book published, but not that it should be very easy. Books at present exceed in quantity as much as they fall short in quality.

8. Unprofitable Public Services

Ever since civilized government began it has been recognized that there are some things which should be done, but cannot be [89] left to the haphazard operation of the profit motive. The most important of these has been war: even those who are most persuaded of the inefficiency of State enterprise do not suggest that national defence should be farmed out to private contractors. But there are many other things that the public authorities have found it necessary to undertake, such as roads, harbours, lighthouses. parks in cities, and so on. A very large department of socialized activity, which has grown up during the last hundred years, is public health. At first, the fanatical adherents of laisser-faire objected, but the practical arguments were overwhelming. If the theory of private enterprise had been adhered to, all sorts of new ways of making fortunes would have become possible. A man suffering from plague might have gone to a publicity agent who would have sent out circulars to railway companies, theatres, etc., saying that the man contemplated dying on their premises unless a large sum were paid to his widow. But it was decided that quarantine and isolation should not be left to voluntary effort, since the benefit was general and the loss individual.

The increasing number and complexity of the public services has been one of the characteristic features of the past century. The most enormous of these is education. Before this was enforced universally by the State, there were various motives for such schools and universities as existed. There were pious foundations dating from the Middle Ages, and secular foundations, such as the College de France, established by enlightened renaissance monarchs; and there were charity schools for the favoured poor. None of these were run for profit. There were, however, schools run for profit: of these Dotheboys Hall and Salem House were samples. There still are schools run for profit, and though the existence of education authorities prevents them from copying the model of Dotheboys Hall, they are apt to rely upon their gentility rather than upon a high standard of scholastic attainment. On the whole, the profit motive has had little influence on education, and that little bad.

Even when the public authorities do not actually carry out the work, they find it necessary to control it. Street lighting may be done by a private company, but it must be done, whether profitable or not. Houses may be built by private enterprise, but [90] the building is controlled by by-laws. In this case, it is now generally recognized that a much stricter regulation would be desirable. Unitary town-planning, such as Sir Christopher Wren projected for London after the Great Fire, might do away with the hideousness and squalor of slums and suburbs and make modern cities beautiful, healthy, and pleasant. This example illustrates another of the arguments against private enterprise in our highly mobile world. The areas to be considered as units are too large to be dealt with by even the greatest plutocrats. London, for example, must be considered as a whole, since a large percentage of its inhabitants sleep in one part and work in another. Some important questions, such as the St. Lawrence waterway, involve vast interests spread over different parts of two countries; in such cases, even a single Government does not cover a sufficient area. Persons, goods, and power can all be transported much more easily than in former days, with the result that small localities have less self-sufficiency than they had when the horse was the quickest mode of locomotion. Power stations are acquiring such importance that, if they are left in private hands, a new kind of tyranny becomes possible, comparable to that of the mediaeval baron in his castle. It is obvious that a community which depends upon a power station cannot have tolerable economic security if the power station is free to exploit its monopolistic advantages to the full. The mobility of goods still causes dependence upon the railway; that of persons has partially returned to dependence upon the road. Railways and motor-cars have made the separation of townships obsolete, and aeroplanes are having the same effect on national frontiers. In these ways, larger and larger areas, involving more and more public control, are rendered increasingly necessary by the progress of invention.

9. War

I come now to the last and strongest argument for Socialism, namely, the need for preventing war. I shall not waste time on the likelihood of war or on its harmfulness, since these may be taken for granted. I shall confine myself to two questions: (1) How far is the danger of war at the present time bound up with capitalism? (2) How far would the establishment of Socialism remove the danger? [91]

War is an ancient institution, not brought into being originally by capitalism, although its causes were always mainly economic. It had in the past two main sources, the personal ambitions of monarchs, and the expansive adventurousness of vigorous tribes or nations. Such a conflict as the Seven Years War exhibits both features: in Europe it was dynastic, whereas in America and India it was a conflict of nations. The conquests of the Romans were largely due to direct personal pecuniary motives on the part of the generals and their legionaries. Pastoral peoples, such as the Arabs, the Huns, and the Mongols, have been repeatedly started upon a career of conquest by the insufficiency of their former grazing grounds. And at all times, except when a monarch could enforce his will (as in the Chinese and later Roman Empires), war has been facilitated by the fact that vigorous males, confident of victory, enjoyed it, while their females admired them for their prowess. Although war has travelled far from its primitive beginnings, these ancient motives still survive, and must be remembered by those who wish war to cease. Only international Socialism will afford a complete safeguard against war, but national Socialism in all the principal civilized countries would, as I shall try to show, enormously diminish its likelihood.

While the adventurous impulse towards war still exists in a section of the population of civilized countries, the motives producing a desire for peace are much stronger than at any time during the last few centuries. People know by bitter experience that the late war did not bring prosperity even to the victors. They realize that the next war is likely to cause a loss of life among civilians to which there has been nothing comparable in magnitude at any time, or in intensity since the Thirty Years War, and that this loss will probably be by no means confined to one side. They fear that capital cities may be destroyed and a whole continent lost to civilization. The British, in particular, are aware that they have lost their age-long immunity from invasion. These considerations have produced in Great Britain a passionate desire for peace, and in most other countries a feeling of the same sort, though perhaps less intense.

Why, in spite of all this, is there an imminent danger of war? The proximate cause, of course, is the harshness of the Versailles [92] Treaty, with the consequent growth of militant nationalism in Germany. But a new war would probably only produce; an even harsher treaty than that of 1919, leading to an even more virulent reaction on the part of the vanquished. Permanent peace cannot issue from this endless see-saw, but only from elimination of the causes of enmity between nations. In the present day, these causes are mainly to be found in the economic interests of certain sections, and are therefore only to be abolished by a fundamental economic reconstruction.

Let us take the iron and steel industry as the most important example of the way in which economic forces promote war. The essential fact is that, with modern technique, the cost of production per ton is less if a vast quantity is produced than it is if the output is smaller. Consequently there is a profit if the market is sufficiently large, but not otherwise. The United Stages steel industry, having a home market which far exceeds all others, has so far had little need to trouble itself with politics., beyond interfering, when necessary, to block schemes of naval disarmament. But the German, French, and British steel industries all have a smaller market than their technical needs demand. They could, of course, secure certain advantages by amalgamations, but to this also there are economic objections. A great paw of the demand for steel is connected with preparations for war, and therefore the steel industry as a whole profits by nationalism and the increase of national armaments. Moreover, both the Comite des Forges and the German steel trust hope, by war, to crush their rivals instead of having to share profits with them; and as the expense of war will fall mainly on others, they reckon that they may find the result financially advantageous. Probably they are mistaken, but the mistake is one which is natural to bold and self-confident men intoxicated with power. The fact that the vitally important Lorraine ore is in territory formerly German but now French increases the hostility of the two groups, and serves as a constant reminder of what can be achieved by war. And naturally the Germans are the more aggressive, since the French already enjoy the spoils of the late war.

It would, of course, be impossible for the steel industry, and the other industries which have similar interests, to cause great [93] nations to serve their purposes, if there were not impulses in the population to which they could appeal. In France and England they can appeal to fear, in Germany to resentment against injustice; and these motives, on both sides, are perfectly valid. But if the matter could be given calm consideration, it would be obvious to both sides that an equitable agreement would make everybody happier. There is no good reason why the Germans should continue to suffer injustice, nor, if the injustice were removed, would they still have any reasonable excuse for behaving so as to inspire fear in their neighbours. But whenever an effort is made to be calm and reasonable, propaganda intervenes, in the shape of appeals to patriotism and national honour. The world is in the condition of a drunkard anxious to reform, but surrounded by kind friends offering him drinks, and therefore perpetually relapsing. In this case, the kind friends are men who make money out of his unfortunate propensity, and the first step in his reformation must be to remove them. It is only in this sense that modern capitalism can be regarded as a cause of war: it is not the whole cause, but it provides an essential stimulus to the other causes. If it were no longer in existence, the absence of this stimulus would quickly cause men to see the absurdity of war, and to enter upon such equitable agreements as would make its future occurrence improbable.

The complete and final solution of the problem presented by the steel industry and others having similar interests is only to be found in international Socialism, that is to say, in their operation by an authority representing all the Governments concerned. But nationalization in each of the leading industrial countries would probably suffice to remove the pressing danger of war. For if the management of the steel industry were in the hands of the Government, and the Government were democractic, it would be conducted, not for its own benefit, but for the benefit of the nation. In the balance sheet of the public finances, profits made by the steel industry at the expense of other parts of the community would be offset by losses elsewhere, and as no individual's income would fluctuate with the gains or losses of one separate industry, no one would have any motive in pushing the interest of steel at the public expense. The increased production of steel due to an [94] increase of armaments would appear as a loss, since it would diminish the supply of consumable commodities to be distributed among the population. In this way public and private interests would be harmonized, and the motive for deceptive propaganda would disappear.

It remains to say something as to the way in which Socialism would remedy the other evils we have been considering.

In place of the pursuit of profits as the guiding motive in industry, there will be Government planning. While the Government may miscalculate, it is less likely to do so than a private individual, because it will have fuller knowledge. When the price of rubber was high, everybody who could planted rubber trees, with the result that, after a few years, the price fell disastrously, and it was found necessary to make an agreement restricting the output of rubber. A central authority, which possesses all the statistics, can prevent this sort of miscalculation of one individual upon another, Nevertheless, unforseen causes, such as new inventions, may falsify even the most careful estimates. In such cases, the community as a whole gains by making the transition to new processes a gradual one. And in regard to those who, at any moment, are unemployed, it will be possible under Socialism to adopt measures which at present are impossible owing to the fear of unemployment and the mutual suspicions of employers and employed. When one industry is decaying and another expanding, the younger men can be taken out of the decaying industry and trained in the expanding one. Most of the unemployment can be prevented by shortening the hours of labour. When no work can be found for a man, he will receive full wages none the less, since he will be paid for willineness to work. In so far as work has to be enforced, it will be enforced by the criminal law, not by economic sanctions.

It will be left to those who do the planning, and therefore ultimately to the popular vote, to strike a balance between comfort and leisure. If everyone works four hours a day there will be less comfort than if everybody works five. One may expect that technological improvements will be utilized partly to provide more comfort and partly to provide more leisure.

Economic insecurity will no longer exist (except in so far as there may still be danger of war), since everyone will receive a salary so [95] long as he is not a criminal, and the expense of children will be borne by the State. Wives will not be dependent upon husbands, nor will children be allowed to suffer seriously for their parents' defects. There will be no economic dependence of one individual upon another, but only of all individuals upon the State.

While Socialism exists in some civilized countries but not in others, there will still be a possibility of war, and the full benefits of the system will not be realizable. But I think it: may be safely assumed that each country which adopts Socialism will cease to be aggressively militaristic, and will be genuinely concerned only to prevent aggression on the part of others. When Socialism has become universal throughout the civilized world, the motives for large-scale wars will probably no longer have sufficient force to overcome the very obvious reasons for preferring peace.

Socialism, I repeat, is not a doctrine for the proletariat only. By preventing economic insecurity, it is calculated to increase the happiness of all but a handful of the richest people and if, as I firmly believe, it can prevent first-class wars, it will immeasurably increase the well-being of the whole world -- for the belief of certain industrial magnates that they could profit by another Great War in spite of the economic argument by which their view can be made to seem plausible, is an insane delusion of megalomaniacs.

Is it really the case, as Communists maintain, that Socialism, a system so universally beneficient and so easy to understand,' a system, moreover, recommended by the obvious breakdown of the present economic regime and by the pressing danger of universal disaster through war -- is it really the case that this system cannot be presented persuasively except to proletarians and a handful of intellectuals, and can only be introduced by means of a bloody, doubtful, and destructive class-war? I, for my part, find this' impossible to believe. Socialism, in some respect, runs counter to ancient habits, and therefore rouses an impulsive opposition which can only be overcome gradually.

And in the minds of its opponents it has become associated with atheism and a reign of terror. With religion Socialism has nothing to do. It is an economic doctrine, and a Socialist might be a Christian or a Mohammedan,a Buddhist or a worshipper of Brahma, without any logical inconsistency. As for the reign of terror, there have been many reigns of terror in [96] recent times, mostly on the side of reaction, and where Social comes as a revolt against one of these it is to be feared that it inherit some of the fierceness of the previous regime. But in countries which still permit some degree of free thought and free speech, I believe that the Socialist case can, with ardour and patience combined, be so presented as to persuade much more than half the population. If, when that time comes, the minority illegally appeals to force, the majority will, of course, have to use force to suppress the rebels. But if the previous work of persuasion has been adequately performed, rebellion ought to be so obviously hopeless that even the most reactionary would not attempt it, or, if they did, they would be defeated so easily and quickly that there would be no occasion for a reign of terror. While persuasion is possible and a majority are still unpersuaded, the appeal to force is out of place; when a majority have been persuaded, the matter can be left to the ordinary operation of democratic government, unless lawless persons see fit to raise an insurrection. The suppression of such an insurrection would be a measure such as any Government would undertake, and Socialists have no more occasion to appeal to force than have other constitutional parties in democratic countries. And if Socialists are ever to have force at their command, it is only by previous persuasion that they can acquire it.

It is customary in certain circles to argue that, while Socialism might, perhaps, at one time, have been secured by the ordinary methods of political propaganda, the growth of Fascism has now made this impossible. As regards the countries that have Fascist Governments this is, of course, true, since no constitutional opposition is possible. But in France, Great Britain, and the United States the matter is otherwise. In France and Great Britain there are powerful Socialist parties; in Great Britain and America the Communists are numerically negligible, and there is no sign that they are gaining ground. They have just sufficed to provide the reactionaries with an excuse for mildly repressive measures, but these have not been sufficiently terrifying to prevent the revival of the Labour Party or the growth of radicalism in the United States. It is far from improbable that Socialists will soon be in a majority in Great Britain. They will then, no doubt, [97] encounter difficulties in carrying out their policy, and the more timid may try to make these difficulties an excuse for postponement, mistakenly, for, while persuasion, unavoidably, is gradual, the final transition to Socialism must be swift and sudden. But there is as yet no good ground for supposing that constitutional methods will fail, and there is much less for supposing that any others have a better chance of success. On the contrary, every appeal to unconstitutional violence helps on the growth of Fascism. Whatever may be the weaknesses of democracy, it is only by means of it and by the help of the popular belief in it that Socialism can hope to succeed in Great Britain or America. Whoever weakens the respect for democratic government, is intentionally or unintentionally, increasing the likelihood, not of Communism, but of Fascism.