Monday, January 25, 2016

The German Question (1990)

From the February 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

On 9 November last year, that hated symbol of political repression, the Berlin Wall, was opened up for the first time in 28 years. The scenes of joy and celebration as thousands passed without hindrance through the concrete scar that had divided the city were truly emotional. The impossible, it seemed, had happened but how and why?

During the last two years thousands of East Germans have voted with their feet— 330,000 in 1989—leaving a country that meet their economic expectations. Despite official claims of economic growth and greater prosperity the workers remained unconvinced and many questions unanswered:
Why is good quality meat often not available? Why are clothes so expensive? Why are housing conditions still so poor? Why are there still shortages of a thousand and one little things from needles to biros? Why are supplies of bananas, oranges, lemons and other important fruit still so very inadequate? Why are there still so many slum schools and hospitals? Yes, and why after all these years should the GDR worker still find it difficult to buy his own version of a Volkswagen compared with the West German, French, Italian or British worker? (David Childs, The GDR: Moscow’s German Ally, p.162).
This lack of economic success was difficult for the authorities to deal with as people in East Germany had access to West German television. East Germans could see the “consumer society” of their West German neighbours and wanted to share in it—though when they got there they found themselves the latest victims of the Wohnungsnotstand (housing crisis), having to live in caravans, in prefabricated housing and even on specially equipped ships (Hamburger Morgenpost, 7 October).

Fall of Honecker
The mounting pressure of refugees leaving for the West, coupled with the reluctance of the East German “Communist” Party, the SED, to adopt political reform, forced the protest on to the streets. Mass demonstrations took place in Leipzig, East Berlin and other cities demanding free speech and human rights and an end to the old-style leadership. Many opposition groups were formed to articulate these demands, the most notable being “New Forum”.

The SED was now confronted by pressure from two directions. Internally from mass demonstrations and fleeing refugees and externally from the joint Russian policies of glasnost and perestroika.There can be no doubt that when Gorbachev visited Erich Honecker (then leader of the SED) in October 1989 to mark the 40th anniversary of the “German Democratic Republic”, he brought with him some harsh criticism. Two weeks later, Honecker was toppled from power and replaced by Egon Krenz. However, Krenz was not the ideal choice to instill mass support and trust from the population. It was widely known that he had congratulated the Chinese “Communist” leadership after the massacre of students in Peking. So even though Krenz lifted the travel restrictions, which in turn led to the opening of the Wall, he had no credibility and was too closely associated with the old guard to win respect and quell the unrest. Krenz was soon replaced by Hans Modrow, the SED leader from Dresden who is being championed as a “reformer”.

Modrow has formed a new government, hoping to win back the confidence of the population. Several top Party officials including Erich Honecker were arrested and faced a corruption investigation. Honecker has since been released but it is obvious that he was a man with aspirations to be a English country gentleman:
Mr Erich Honecker, the now disgraced former leader, had at his disposal an annual sum of £2.1 million for luxury goods supplied by a special supermarket in the village of Wandlitz, near Berlin where he and other politburo members lived. A keen hunter, Mr Honecker employed a staff of 22 at his hunting estate north of Berlin where the deer were fed on hundreds of tons of imported corn. (Guardian, 14 December).
Several changes have taken place since the Wall was opened. Along with the drive against corruption, the hated secret police—the Stasi—have been disbanded and the Party has adopted a new name to match its new image SED-DS (“Socialist Unity Party of Germany—Democratic Socialism”). However, the most important changes have been the exclusion from the constitution of the SED’s “leading role” in society and the announcement of new elections in May.

These changes look impressive on paper, but it should be remembered that the SED still holds the reins of power. Out of 27 government posts, the SED have 16. All the important ministerial positions—defence, finance, internal security, education, economic planning, foreign affairs, home affairs—are held by SED members. As yet no real tangible change has taken place and much will depend on how the opposition can mobilise popular discontent and eliminate its political differences, if they are to be successful in the May elections.

German reunification?
Whoever governs in East Germany after May, a gradual move towards political pluralism and economic reform is probable given the pattern in other East European countries. Economic reform will entail relaxing state control and introducing elements of the free market. Western capitalism will be eager to exploit the cheap resources and labour that exist in Eastern Europe. No doubt part of the West’s enthusiasm for recent developments has something to do with the prospect of a large exploitable East Europe becoming available.

Since the opening of the Wall, there has been much speculation about the eventual re-unification of Germany. Opinion in East Germany itself seems to be divided, according to a report in the Guardian (19 December):
Participants in East Germany’s round table talks made an urgent appeal yesterday to the governments in Bonn and East Berlin not to endanger stability in Europe by moving into premature talks on German reunification. The joint appeal by government parties, opposition groups and Church representatives came on the eve of a meeting in Dresden today between Chancellor Kohl and the East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow; Dr Kohl's first meeting with East Germany’s new leadership is expected to attract pro-reunification demonstrations; while opponents to unity have announced protest marches in Dresden and Berlin.
Moreover, in West Germany a recent opinion poll carried out by Der Spiegel magazine (20 November) indicated that only 27 per cent of those asked thought that reunification would be possible in the near future.

Obviously here we are entering the world of speculation, but the author’s guess is that reunification in terms of a single unitary state, joint armed forces and single currency is for the moment unlikely. For such a prospect would entail great changes to the political and military map of Europe and poses many unanswered questions. What would be the position of a unified Germany vis-à-vis the existing miIitary/political blocs of Europe? Would a unified Germany accept demilitarisation and adopt a neutral status? Would a reunified Germany be part of the EEC or COMECON or perhaps of both? The questions are endless The most likely short-term outcome is the development of a “community” of the two German states, with increased economic and cultural ties together with freer movement across the borders. But one thing is certain: whether there is one or two German states, German workers will still face the same social problems and economic insecurities that world capitalism produces.

Workers can change history
The recent developments in East Germany and elsewhere in Eastern Europe substantiate the long-held socialist argument that the so-called communist countries of Eastern Europe have in fact nothing to do with socialism. What exists in Eastern Europe is state capitalism. Workers in these countries are exploited by the state which functions as a capitalist. The “communist” parties with their control of the state machinery constitute the exploiting and ruling class and any challenge to their political monopoly has been hitherto ruthlessly crushed. Despite the official rhetoric that East Germany is a “Workers’ State”, the workers themselves know that the system does not function in their interests. They have experienced the economic exploitation and deprivation, while the Leninist vanguard who claim to represent them live in luxury country houses, drive expensive western cars and enjoy a standard of living that most workers there can only dream about.

All this demonstrates more clearly than ever that workers, both East and West, share a common experience. Whether we live under state or private capitalism we will never truly be free until we liberate ourselves from capitalism itself. The common ownership and democratic control of the world’s resources—-socialism—remains the only answer to the problems we experience as workers. The events have shown that things do change. Workers can change history. What seems impossible today can be reality tomorrow. Old certainties, as well as the Berlin Wall, can fall—why not capitalism?
Steve Dowsett

Propaganda in the west (1985)

From the June 1985 issue of the Socialist Standard

Comrades from the West of England and South Wales were recently involved in an ambitious propaganda tour - a total of nine meetings in three weeks. Such activity, over a huge area, reflected a determination to communicate the revolutionary alternative which far exceeds our numerical strength.

Despite a last-minute change of venue, the meeting in Bristol on "Women and socialism" was not only well attended but provoked a stimulating discussion among a growing band of sympathisers. Workers attracted to the socialist case greatly appreciated our efforts in arranging meetings in the small communities of Llantrisant, Glynneath and Llanelli and asked detailed questions long after the formal discussion had ended.

Part of the tour consisted of a debate in Cardiff with Kim Howells, research officer and spokesman for South Wales NUM on "Coal Industry Nationalisation or Privatisation'. He expressed a close identification with our object and definition of socialism and said that his attendance at Socialist Party of Great Britain meetings had given him a class analysis of capitalism. For a trade unionist. he gave an unusually good account of the development of the nation state and the economic and political reasons for nationalisation. In particular he pointed out that the capitalists, the trade unions and the Labour Party all welcomed nationalisation: the capitalists saw state ownership as a means of maximising profit; the unions thought that a state employer would guarantee jobs, and Labour saw it as an opportunity for vote catching by promising to secure domestic fuel supplies.

However, despite his knowledge of how capitalism works. Kim Howells claimed that the effects and experiences of nationalisation were a necessary historical step, and important educationally, in developing working-class consciousness. In his view, state ownership made the capitalists a more recognisable entity - which supposedly enabled the workers more easily to identify their class enemy and the large scale production of nationalisation gave the working class the necessary skills in organising an integrated industry. He therefore disagreed with the analysis contained within our declaration of principles and suggested a step-by-step approach towards workers' control, which he considered more realistic given the level of class consciousness among workers. This strategy, he thought, had a better chance of success under the leadership of a Labour government, who would be committed to giving workers more say in the running of industry.

Replying for the Socialist Party. Ron Cook stressed that it was a delusion to believe that the wages system could be run to benefit the working class. Socialism meant a revolutionary change in the ownership of the means of production and distribution which had nothing to do with state ownership or workers' control. The working class did not have to experience the reformist politics of nationalisation in order to accept the need for socialism. Industry was already run from top to bottom by the working class and it was not a lack of organisational experience which prevented them from recognising their real interests. The central issue was common ownership and while workers identified themselves with any form of capitalism the revolutionary alternative would always be at the bottom of the agenda. By advocating workers' control Kim Howells was delaying socialism and distorting its meaning.
Brian Johnson

A united capitalist Ireland? (1984)

From the July 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard

Violence thrives on political stagnation. While those who endure poverty and deprivation have the illusion of hope dangled before them by politicians, direct and indirect support for the blind alley of political violence will diminish. The British Government are acutely aware of this fact and the various Ministers of State for Northern Ireland have, since 1972. strained their modest talents to find an avenue to some sort of consensus politics in the province.

Unfortunately, violence itself takes many forms and, while those who face the fanaticism of the gun- or bomb-toting terrorists grab the attention of a selective media, other dark forces are at work. The "security forces" are violent, encouraged by the ambivalence of government and a pensioned judiciary. The judges themselves engender conflict, including in their number many establishment figures whose political backgrounds demonstrate their bigotry and role in helping to create the problems with which they now deal. Add to this those who have forged political careers and gained wealth and influence beyond the promise of their mean abilities — people whose popular esteem could not bear the strain of peace and reconciliation —  and you have the political combustibles of the Northern Ireland problem.

In this maelstrom of violence, where the most casual or banal of observations can bring the fury of a bellowing Paisley or the inanities of a dead-pan Adams over the air waves, stands Prior and his bewildered team of Tory pragmatists; pragmatically lying, double-dealing and calculating the odds on sell-out, all to no avail.

Only a lunatic could see benefits for the working class in the continuation of violence. History, interwoven with the most appalling social deprivation in western Europe, may explain why members of the working class, on both sides of the politico-religious divide, allow themselves to be drawn into violence. But those who consciously exploit history and social misery to recruit workers onto the futile paths of political violence are the most deadly enemies of the working class.

We know that only when workers understand and support socialist ideas are they beyond the political ignorance of the bomber or gunman. In a majority, they will not only end the present violence but destroy for ever its material base. Having said that, we could hardly be indifferent to anything that might stop the killing and bring about such normality as would allow our fellow workers to make a more dispassionate judgement of the cause of their misery.

The combined forces of constitutional Irish nationalism, after almost a year's intensive study of the "Irish Problem" in the New Ireland Forum, have nothing to say that might bring about peace in Northern Ireland. The contradictory interpretations that Haughey and Fitzgerald put on the Report's findings, immediately following its release, demonstrated that the political con artists of Irish capitalism could find very little to more-or-less agree on without endangering the support of the voting fodder they have carefully cultivated over the years on a strong political diet of emotional rubbish, lies, double standards and doctored history.

The Report dealt with what it claimed were the roots of the problem, citing history and socio-cultural and religious divisions as the principal culprits and the British-devised 1921 Partition of Ireland as the perpetuating agent of these divisions. John Hume, the SDLP Leader, is credited with conceiving the idea of an all-Ireland nationalist Forum — critics say to save his Party from the growing threat of being electorally swamped by Sinn Fein. In his speech following the unveiling of the Report, he pointed out that many other nations throughout the world had been able to engineer political structures capable of accommodating cultural, social and religious differences greater than those that had existed, or exist now in Ireland.

Hume was. of course, quite right and his statement was a factual repudiation of the Forum's contention — subscribed to by Hume — that cultural and religious differences were the origin of the conflict. This being so, we must look elsewhere for an explanation of the cause of violence and division in the country. We must search for a reason, or reasons, to explain why politicians and the class interests they served were committed to the same economic system and yet divided on the question of the political structures that would best maintain it.

The explanation is that, while capitalism existed throughout the country, it was much more advanced and developed in north-east Ulster than it was in the rest of Ireland (see our pamphlet, Ireland — Past. Present and Future). Capitalism had developed late in the south and its emergence was frustrated by competition, largely from Britain. It needed self-government to introduce such policies of economic protection as would ensure its continued development. In other words, those with a growing stake in southern industry and commerce, the emergent Irish middle class, wanted “national freedom" in order to promote legislation that would afford them protection from competition and enhance their capacity to exploit the working class. This aspiration, wholly irrelevant to the needs and interests of the workers, was espoused, first, by the constitutional Nationalist Party and. later, by Sinn Fein. The policy statements of both these organisations were remarkably frank on the subject and the fact that Sinn Fein was able to use emotional rhetoric and anti-working class patriotic nonsense (then, as now!) to persuade workers to invest their lives in their masters’ interests, indicates the dismal lack of working class consciousness that existed in the country.

The reaction from the north, where a highly-developed industrial capitalism was producing ships, industrial machinery and textiles almost exclusively for export, was predictable. Political unity with an area requiring self-government to promote trade protection would have been ruinous. Irish capitalism was implacably divided, not about the welfare of the people, not about jobs or homes or ending the grim poverty that abounded throughout the island. No. The division, the disagreement, was solely about the political structures that would facilitate the growth of their power and privilege. 

Cartoon by George Meddemmen.
It was this division that was converted into “culture", “patriotism" and political and religious bigotry. Each side wielded power through control of clerics and politicians, historically expert in playing on the fears and prejudices of a politically backward working class and small farming community. Earlier economic struggles had left a legacy of bitterness and bigotry; this legacy was revived and given new vigour and direction by the political and religious spokesmen for each side of the conflict within Irish capitalism. As always, workers would be the death and prison fodder in a fight that had nothing to do with them. On the one side, self-interested leaders like Carson and Craig (both contemptuously indifferent to the working class) and the slumming bigwigs of the Orange Order; on the other, the idiot disciple of blood sacrifice, Pearse, the erstwhile socialist, Connolly and, later, De Valera and his cohorts. Such a division ensured that the workers would don the mantle of ignorance and provide the violence and threats of violence to create a fairy-tale ending for the people of property, north and south.

The Forum Report dare not reveal this as the basis of division in Ireland, hence the rubbish about ancient cultural and religious divisions. Nor is it accidental that the new-found willingness to create political structures that will accommodate these rifts comes at a time when the basis of past division within native capitalism, swamped now with multinational interests, has largely evaporated because of changed economic conditions, north and south. Indeed, it is an open secret that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's interests are well represented among the richer plunderers in the south, traditionally Catholic and conservative and wholly receptive to the fiction that “anti-Christ communism" is extant in Eastern Europe. The nations of western capitalism, including Britain — whose interest in Ireland is now largely strategic — would be very sympathetic to an all-Ireland state firmly within NATO. Northern Ireland is an embarrassment, currently costing Britain some £1.2 billion per annum — an amount which British capitalism, deep in recession, must be deeply anxious to retrieve.

It is against this background that the New Ireland Report sets the stage for a unitary capitalist state. But there are problems. As Marx noted;
Men make their own history but they do not do it just as they please; they do not do it under circumstances chosen by themselves but under circumstances directly encountered. given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. (18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte)
The dead generations in Ireland validate Paisley and the Provisional IRA. Both will guarantee that the path to unitary capitalism is a rough one but both can only delay the ultimate verdict of capitalism. Already history is being rewritten and a new political pragmatism is emerging to replace old "principles”. All the indications are that a move towards reconciliation is being actively promoted not only by the Republic, but by Britain, the United States and the countries within the EEC and NATO.

It is estimated that capital in the Republic would have to bear an additional 10 per cent tax burden to meet the costs of unitary capitalism. There is no doubt that this, and the possible inheritance of Northern Ireland's violence, would have a dampening effect on the Republican patriotism of the Irish capitalists. On the other hand, the United States and other interested parties have indicated a willingness to underwrite a settlement in Ireland by promoting investment there — a small price to pay for a strategically-situated Ireland committed to the NATO cause — and there is nothing like the promise of inward-flowing lolly to whet the patriotic appetites of the propertied class!

Nor need the southern capitalists be unduly inhibited about continued political violence. The argument of their political leaders, that a British withdrawal will remove the premise of loyalist violence, is not without credibility and northern violence is costing the south more per capita than it is costing Britain. This financial haemorrhage will continue until there is a solution of the problem — even if limited bloodletting has to be faced.

The New Ireland Forum Report should be studied by the working class in Ireland. The condemnations of violence should be noted, together with the fact that all the main political parties in Ireland, north and south, owe their existence to violence or its threat. The accommodating recipes for peace and reconciliation should be read alongside the literary and verbal patriotism and bigotry of the earlier champions of republican "freedom" and their unionist opponents when the needs of capital dictated division. Above all. the Forum Report should be seen as a vindication of the socialist contention that the causes for which workers have killed and died in Ireland are supremely irrelevant to their interests.

The Forum Report is not an answer to the problems of poverty, unemployment, slums and all the other evils that affect the working and unemployed people of this island. The implementation of the Report’s main recommendation or either of its subsidiary recommendations might conceivably change the forms of violence we live with, but it will certainly not remove the material conditions that makes violence inevitable in a class divided society. Only socialism can do that.
Richard Montague
World Socialist Party of Ireland

Thomas More and Utopia (1978)

From the February 1978 issue of the Socialist Standard

Thomas More was born 500 years ago this month. There is an interesting (though badly lit) exhibition at the National Gallery in London marking the event. A well known figure in his own day, he is known now to most schoolchildren as an adviser to Henry VIII. But More was not just a statesman. He was a highly successful lawyer and an important diplomat. Above all he was a scholar and writer of an enormous number of Latin works. He was also a religious fanatic who found time among all his other activities to persecute those he considered swerved a hair’s breadth from the true faith. As every schoolchild knows, he eventually quarrelled with his patron Henry VIII and suffered the same grisly fate that Henry reserved for many others, including some of his wives.

So what possible interest can a revolutionary party have in this man? The answer is that he wrote a little Latin joke, called Utopia. Unfortunately that book is not as well known to the schoolchild historian as the other, more colourful, events in More’s life.

More lived at a time when the break-up of classical feudal society was being completed. The rise of the merchant class was progressing, wage-labour was becoming the norm, and in general terms the development of capitalist society had started. It was a development that would take many centuries to complete. Nevertheless the time of More witnessed a big step forward in this historic, event.

As to why a man like More, a man of his time, wrote Utopia, it is hard to say. More was a mass of contradictions. Despite his religious ferocity, in his personal life he displayed other characteristics. Erasmus wrote of him that he had “a special hatred of tyranny and a great fancy for equality.” Perhaps such a statement must not be read at its face value—after all the circumstances in which More lived cried out of inequality. Nonetheless one can probably accept what Erasmus wrote as regards his personality: “In company his extraordinary kindness and sweetness of temper are such as to cheer the dullest spirits, and alleviate the annoyance of the most trying circumstances.” As for his “learning” in the classical sense, all his contemporaries vouch for him as one of the great scholars of his age. Karl Kautsky gave as the reasons for More’s writing an amazing work like Utopia the following: “More’s personal character, his philosophical training, his activity in practical affairs, and the economic situation of England. More’s personal character may indeed be regarded as one of the causes of his socialism.”

Whatever the reasons for the book’s appearance, irrespective of the formal Latin in which it was written and taking into account the society out of which it comes, More’s book is still worth reading today. Utopia—the name literally means “no place”—is an island where King Utopus has established an ideal commonwealth. More’s book takes the form of a conversation with Raphael Hythloday (the name probably meaning in Greek—“pedlar of nonsense”) who had lived in this ideal commonwealth for several years. In the first part of the book Hythloday, More and others discuss the failure of civilization as they know it, in contrast to Utopia. In the second part Hythloday describes in detail life in Utopia.

Among the things Hythloday explains about Utopia are the system of government, the work done, the relations between the people, family life, economic relations, inter-state relations, and the designs of cities and houses. However, More is ambiguous (quite possibly deliberately) about much of Utopian life. For example, on the whole, money does not play the part More’s society, and even more so our own, have assigned to it. For example, distribution of goods takes place according to the classic socialist principle “To each according to his need.” Hythloday explains that all produce is brought to the common market (sic) place. Here says Hythloday “the head of each household looks for what he or his family needs, and carries off what he wants without any sort of payment or compensation. Why should anything be refused him? There is plenty of everything, and no reason to fear that anyone will claim more than he needs.” He goes on to point out that it is only fear of want that makes everyone greedy, thus anticipating, by nearly 350 years, what Marx and Engels pointed out in Part 1 of German Ideology. Yet in other places, the work is not quite so explicit on the role of money.

Of most interest in Utopia is the discussion of property. Again More is somewhat ambiguous. Nevertheless it can be said that the view of private property that is put forward is one of complete rejection of this form of social arrangement. Private property, Hythloday explains, prevents justice and happiness. He doubts whether “equality can be achieved where property belongs to individual men. However abundant goods may be, when everyman tries to get as much as he can for his own exclusive use, a handful of men end up sharing the whole thing.” How true!

Not that More is consistent in his discussion of property. After all, the Utopians have slaves! Which leads to another interesting aspect of the work, the condemnation of wage-labour. The Socialist points out that wage-labour results in poverty for the many and plenty for the few, at a time when there could be abundance for all.

It could be that More’s attack on wage-labour is merely that of a quasi-feudal aristocrat. He is objecting perhaps not to wage-labour, but to its converse, developing capitalist production. One argument is that in a picture of a society that accepts and uses slaves (albeit a far more humane and “justifiable” slavery than has ever really existed) and condemns wage-labour, More is actually urging a reactionary step back to ancient times (possibly influenced by Plato)  rather than presenting a revolutionary vision of a communal society. However, it can also be argued that Utopia’s rejection of wage-labour is so strong that it must be what More really felt. Hythlodlay compares the life of a wage-worker with that of a beast of burden, and concludes that in some respects, a beast is better off. And in explaining that in Utopia people do work Hythloday says this: “But no one has to exhaust himself with endless toil from early morning to late at night, as if he were a beast of burden. Such wretchedness, really worse than slavery, is the common lot of workmen in all countries except Utopia.”

There is much in More’s book that a Socialist would criticize. Nonetheless, the work is a stimulating sketch of how it is possible to re-organize society, and of the problems engendered by property relations. To that extent the work is still of interest. Utopia, whether as a joke or political propaganda, was exceptionally influential in the years after More’s death. Many of the early settlers in America were influenced to the extent of trying to develop communities on the lines of Utopia. In particular, Utopia is part of a long history of “utopian” Socialism, out of which scientific Socialism was developed.
Ronnie Warrington

Does Socialism mean Free Love? (1927)

From the February 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard

A correspondent complains of his inability to understand the attitude of the Socialist Party towards “free love.” The following is an attempt to make matters a little plainer to him and possibly to others.

"Free love” is one of those terms like Atheism, Republicanism, etc., which are used by the professional anti-Socialists as a means of arousing the prejudices of their listeners, or readers, as the case may be, and rendering the calm and intelligent consideration of the subject more difficult on their part. As a rule the anti-Socialist has only to deal with the so-called “Socialist” who supports the Labour Party and who meets his opponent either with a mere denial of their charges or with a retort upon the lines of “You’re another!" For nothing is easier than to show that there are supporters of capitalism, naked and unadorned, who claim to be Atheists, Republicans, Free Lovers, etc. This, of course, merely dodges the issue; but the Socialist Party has, necessarily, something more to say on the subject.

Marriage as we know it to-day is a legal contract whereby the man assumes the responsibility of maintaining the woman and acquires certain rights over her person. The State enforces the terms of the contract where possible, but its ability to do so depends,' in practice, upon the social position of the couple concerned. In the case of members of the capitalist class who possess definite and relatively secure means of livelihood, all is plain sailing. The woman, if necessary, can obtain effective security and the man can proceed for divorce and damages against the usurper of his rights.

In the case of members of the working-class, their economic circumstances alter the position, although in theory the same law applies to all. The working man’s wages are, in numerous cases, quite insufficient for the maintenance of a wife and family, and even where they are sufficient, their permanence is uncertain. Hardly any sections of the workers are free from the haunting menace of unemployment. Under such circumstances it is obvious that the legal regulation of marital relations becomes a mere matter of form. Married or unmarried, the woman of the working-class has to work in order to maintain herself and her children; while the latter are also under the necessity of contributing to the family income as soon as possible.

Modern industry has wiped out the property of the peasants and the handicraftsmen, and has therefore wiped out the economic basis of marriage as far as the workers are concerned. Property and security are concentrated in the hands of the capitalist class, and as a consequence it is only among them that the legal contract retains its meaning. This, of course, does not prevent the religious and moral sentiments associated with the institution continuing to influence the minds of the workers.

Just as the workers accept the guidance of their masters in the political sphere, so in the realm of domestic life it is left to the Socialist to strip the veil of illusion from the hideous reality.

The parsons, and other hirelings of Capital, pretend that marriage is necessary for the protection of women. They have never yet explained, however, how it is that thousands of women of the working-class, married and unmarried, have had recourse to some form or other of prostitution in order to supplement their inadequate earnings or to escape for a time from the foul and squalid environment in which they have found themselves entrapped. Nor have they shown how the institution of marriage helps the girl who is confronted with the unwelcome attentions of her foreman, manager or other superior who holds her livelihood in his hands.

Sexual servitude is, in fact, but one of the inevitable aspects of the servitude of a class. Its form has changed with the changing of the forms of society. The feudal knights of the Middle Ages who played the part of gallants towards the women of their own class regarded the womenfolk of their serfs as legitimate prey. The patriarchs of ancient times were not content with numerous wives, but took to themselves concubines from among their slaves.

These various forms of sexual relationship | took their rise from the property basis of society prevailing at the time. In more primitive times, however, before property had developed and assumed basic importance, other forms of the relationship existed in which women enjoyed a position of equality. Morgan, in his “Ancient Society,” for example, has shown how the institution of marriage arose and developed along with the changing conditions of obtaining a livelihood.

The effect which the social revolution will have upon marriage can, of course, only be dealt with in a general way. We are not prophets and do not profess to know just exactly how the men and women of the future will order their lives. It is not for slaves to make plans in advance for those who will be free.

This much, however, is plain. When the means of life become the common property of society, every individual will enjoy economic security which they will inherit from society as a whole. The present-day dependence of individuals upon others for their subsistence will disappear. As a consequence, the relationship between the sexes and between parents and children can then only be based upon mutual feeling.

We can, therefore, only surmise that the legal contract will vanish along with the economic necessity upon which it is based. The distinction between married and unmarried mothers or between legitimate and illegitimate children will simply become meaningless, along with all other distinctions which arise from the institution of private property.

Socialism, in short, will provide for the free development of each and all. 
Eric Boden