From the September 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard
THE DREAM OF DEAN INGE.
The Newspaper Press has lately been flooded with articles by prominent pillars of the Church upon social questions. Not only do these articles bring material reward to their "spiritual" authors, but they perform a valuable service to the ruling class. That still large element of workers saturated with religion are inclined to be guided by the clergy and hence the clerics are hired to sing the praises of the present system of society.
One of the busiest writers in defence of Capital is Dean Inge of St. Paul's Cathedral. In an article in the Evening Standard (August 26th) illuminated by his photo, he discourses on "The Class War." The gloomy dean has become very optimistic about the Kingdom of Capital, in fact, more hopeful than he is about the "Kingdom of God." This "cultured" cleric, who spent twenty years of his life studying the mystics of the ancient World, has spent about twenty minutes studying Socialism, and hence miles of articles denouncing "the horrid thing."
Let us hear the brilliant words of the very reverend divine:
All who are interested in social questions—and who can escape from these painful problems?— should study the conditions in America, for there we have an alternative to Socialism in working order. Two results have followed. There is, as I was assured last year when I visited America very little Socialism there now, because every working man is himself a capitalist. That is one result; the other is that no country has ever been half so prosperous as the United States is to-day.
Notice his discovery on his brief lecturing tour in America. He discovered or "was assured," that every working-man is himself a capitalist."
Just previously, we are given the reason for this amazing example of an Eldorado. We will again quote the Dean:— .
The fact is, simply, that while Europe has been following various will-o’-the-wisps which are usually described collectively as Socialism, America has adhered to the economic creed of the Benthamite Radicals and the Victorian Liberals. Bentham, for example, said that "if the laws do nothing to combat it, if they put no shackles on industry and trade, in a prosperous nation there is a continual progress to equality.” Marx said the exact opposite—that the natural progress under "capitalism” is towards a nation of millionaires and beggars. Mill’s remedy for unrest was to turn labourers into capitalists, which is easily done in a joint-stock limited company, though it is not so easy in a private firm.
The much-abused economists of 80 years ago have now been proved to be right, while every prophecy of the Socialists has been completely falsified, and every one of their schemes, as soon as it has been tried, has been proved to be unworkable.
"The continual progress to equality" is a fine phrase. While it may be true of the dead—the special field of the Dean—it certainly is not true of America. Not only so, but America is the country, par excellence, where the gulf between the worker and the owner gets wider every day.
If figures are required, they have been marshalled in many books, and our new pamphlet on Socialism quotes some of them. The actual income-tax returns of the United States showed that even with assessing the tax on incomes of over £200 per year for single persons, only a minority came within the tax. That figure of two hundred pounds or 1,000 dollars annual income in America meant a very low standard of existence.
America, the land of "no class war" is actually the country used as an illustration by many anti-Socialist writers of the truth of Marx's prophecy of the concentration of wealth.
Since the millionaire, Henry Laurens Call, wrote his statement of “The Concentration of Wealth,” there have been many proofs of the truth of Marx’s prophecy applied to America. The most carefully selected body ever convened by the United States Senate to study Industrial Relations reported that 2 per cent, of the population owned 60 per cent, of the wealth. (Report of Industrial Relations Committee, 1916.)
The country of the most brutal and bloody suppression of striking workers is chosen by the Dean as a country without a class war! Recent industrial history in the United States shows a record of textile workers in Patterson (New Jersey), striking for a bare existence; the millworkers of New England, the metal miners of Minnesota, the mine workers of Virginia, the steel toilers of Pennsylvania and Indiana—a whole series of struggles brutally suppressed and with starvation driving the workers back to work. Read the almost suppressed report of the Inter-Church World Movement upon the Steel Strike! A report made by Church investigators which showed the terrible conditions of the steel workers that caused the strike and the bloody methods used in its suppression. Does the Dean of St. Paul’s tell his readers of horrible steel towns like Johnstown, Pennsylvania where over 200 out of every thousand born die in their first year ?
Our Dean, who writes of America’s every working-man a capitalist, seems to doubt his own statement, for we read the following little qualification of his Eldorado:—
There are no doubt extreme and violent Labour associations in America. There is the notorious I.W.W., which stands for “Industrial Workers of the World,” though its enemies say that “I Won’t Work,” would be, more descriptive, a society which has been guilty of many murders and other crimes. In the Pennsylvania coal mines there were, a few years ago, conditions of labour, which we should consider scandalous. But on the whole there is far less antagonism between employers and employed than there is in England. The American employer grudges his men no wages that they can really earn ; and the workman understands that if he wants good wages he must earn them. The machinery is usually better in the United States, which makes mass-production easier; but the spirit of co-operation is the decisive factor. The American workman does not feel that the employer is his natural enemy, whom he must try to injure in every possible way.
The spirit of co-operation as shown in the long and bitter struggles referred to in John R. Commons’ “History of American Labour” or Brissenden’s “History of the I.W.W.”
The spirit of co-operation is easily explained, however, by the Dean. Each working man being a Capitalist, he cooperates with himself!
Later on our reverend writer forgets his contrast between European class war and American brotherly love. He begins to urge that the difference is really not so much, after all.
Besides, we must not exaggerate the contrast between American prosperity and English distress. There must be a great deal of sound work and sound economics in the country, or we should be worse off than we are. We are still, I believe, second only to the United States in national wealth per head of the population, or, rather, third, for my readers will be surprised to hear that Cuba has passed us. And the British working man saves more than is usually supposed.
But the most pathetic picture painted by the Dean is in his closing paragraph :—
A house divided against itself is brought to desolation. This is the fate which threatens us now. If the evil were caused by moral decadence, it might be useless to preach against it; but if it is largely caused by a gigantic economic heresy, it may be possible to combat it successfully. We have two object-lessons before us—on one side America, faithful to sound economic traditions, and rolling in prosperity; on the other side Russia, the Russia of Lenin, of whom Mr. Cook boasts to be a “ humble disciple,” ruined, miserable, paralysed with terror. May we not say, ” Look on this picture, and on this”?
Consider the marvellous amount of information gained by the Dean on a short tour in America. How much more marvellous is the information gained about Russia by his complete absence from that country? But perhaps this is another instance of where he was “assured” that it was so.
Somebody, not a clergyman, who wished to compare Russia and America would at least deal with the economic development of both countries. The forgetful Dean had only just finished telling us of America’s highly developed machinery and technical progress. Did Russia ever have that? No, Russia’s most noted possession, apart from Czars, right up to a few years ago, was a highly-organised Christian Church which preached no class war and stifled every attempt at education and progress. While America was developing machinery, Russia was making more ikons! But what are facts to a very reverend?
The greatest horror which haunts Dean Inge is the painful fact stated by him in the article, that although Marx theories are all wrong, have all been disproved, are completely surpassed, there are evidences, in spite of all this, that Marx's ideas are appealing to the working class.