A WORKING MAN ON SOCIALISM.
[To TH2 EDITOR OP THE “SPROTATOR."1 Sra,—In view of the increased activity among the advocates of Socialism, the views of one in whose interest it is supposed to be designed may not be without interest. That Socialism aims at overthrowing existing institutions and customs is to my mind one of the least weighty objections that can be urged against it, and, I must confess, is one with which I am not greatly concerned. I am opposed to Socialism because, after thinking the matter out to the very best of my ability, I am fully convinced that as a working man it would inflict grave definite injury upon me and my fellows without giving any com- pensating advantages whatever. Every right-thinking working man is, I take it, anxious to stand as high in the estima- tion of his employer as he possibly can ; he also desires to receive as much in the shape of wages as his work justly entitles him to ; and he is wishful to have a fairly good opinion of himself ; in other words, he wants to maintain his self-respect. These aspirations are, I make bold to say, perfectly legitimate and laudable, and are, moreover, evidence of a healthy state of mind. Under a Socialist regime, however, these incentives, which influence a man to put whatever abilities he may possess to the best use possible, would be destroyed, his work would deteriorate in quality, and his personal character become less honourable.
The effects of this would soon become apparent in a diminu- tion of the total output of labour, in a decrease of the wealth of the country and in the purchasing power of money, for if the supply of the necessaries of life be diminished, it follows that the demand for them will become greater, and more money be required to buy them. Who, I ask, under such conditions would be likely to suffer most? That this is what would happen if the Socialist be allowed to have his way is, I submit, a proposition the truth of which no one can deny. Human nature being what it is, we all require a motive force in order that we may do all that we are capable of doing. As long as a man can see a definite advantage in doing his best, he will do it ; but remove that advantage, give him nothing to strive for, and who can wonder if he declines to do more than he is forced to do ? Should the time ever come when honest effort and individual worth will be less recognised and rewarded than now, when idleness and indifference will be denounced less vigorously, and when the line which dis- tinguishes between good and bad work will be less distinctly and sharply drawn, then a blow will have been dealt us as an industrious and painstaking nation from the baleful effects of which it will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to recover.
For the workman who aims at efficiency, and between whom and his master there exists mutual respect, Socialism has few attractions ; just as for him who takes no pride in his work, and who does not care whether it be done badly or well, it has no terrors. If investigation be made, it will, I think, be found that they are the most vehement advocates of Socialism who, for reasons which it were best not to give, have failed to hold their own in the battle of life, and who cherish bitter feelings against all who have made a better fight than themselves. They, in any case, stand to lose nothing, and may, from their own point of view, gain much. We hear a great deal of the argument that because working men are instrumental in producing the greater part of the wealth of the country, they are entitled to a larger share of it, a statement with which most people will agree. But are the methods of the Socialists the best by which this end can be attained ? On the contrary, nothing is better calculated to bring about an entirely opposite result, for if the total wealth of the world be diminished the working man may expect to get a still smaller proportion than he does now. It is matter of common knowledge that where capital accumu- lates most freely and in large quantities, the position of the working man is incomparably better than where there is a scarcity ; for if capital be plentiful, it stands to reason that workmen of all kinds can hire it more cheaply to assist them in the work of production than where there is a deficiency. How strange it is that so many working men have some- how managed to convince themselves that capital is their worst enemy, when in reality it is their best friend ! By pushing Socialistic schemes, by threatening to confiscate private property, they appear to be doing their utmost to make it not worth while to accumulate money, and to force those who have accumulated it to send it out of the country. Socialism, in short, tends to aggravate the very evils which it professedly sets out to cure, and since the basis must, in the nature of the case, be compulsion, it will, instead of giving greater freedom, develop into a dangerous and hateful tyranny. The effect produced by Socialism upon trade and commerce would be nothing less than disastrous, but more appalling still would be its influence upon morals. It may be suspected that this aspect of the question is one in which working men are not greatly interested ; but if such an impression exists, let me hasten to correct it, for I say emphatically that to many of them this is what appeals most strongly. There are relationships in life which many working people regard as sacred, and they are prepared to make sacrifices in order that these relationships may remain inviolate. The attitude of Socialism in certain of its forms to the family and to marriage, for instance, can only be described as revolting. But we bold that anything which lowers our conceptions as to what is involved in the terms father, mother, husband, and wife is a national menace, and is to be resisted to the utmost of our power. If it be said that English people would never allow Socialism to proceed to such lengths, the very obvious reply is that the best way is to have nothing whatever to do with it ; for if it once be allowed to begin its deadly work, the end is beyond human prescience. Personally, I am convinced that it is impossible to build either a sound individual or national character upon a Socialistic basis, for it is essentially selfish and dishonest. It ministers to man's lowest nature to the total neglect of his finest part. There is nothing in it to ennoble or uplift, and everything to degrade. It blurs moral distinctions, and its whole tendency is down- wards. Under its influence bitterness and hate would be engendered between class and class. What is now regarded as most sacred would be considered of no account, and the standard of morality generally would decline.—I am, Sir, &c.,
[We can state from personal knowledge that the writer of the above is a working man living in the country.—ED. Spectator.]