By Socialism, the Hammersmith Socialist Society understands the realization of a
condition of true society all-embracing and all-sufficing.
It believes that this great change must be effected by the conscious exertions of
those who have learned to know what Socialism is.
This change, it believes, must be an essential change in the basis of society: the
present basis is privilege for the few and consequent servitude for the many; the
further basis will be equality of condition for all, which we firmly believe to be
the essence of true society.
As soon as any community begins to make differences in the condition and livelihood
of its members, according to some imagined standard of estimation of their
qualities, it finds itself driven to use a mere arbitrary system for the
apportioning of responsibilities and rewards, which must of necessity injure some
for the aggrandizement of others. But when a society habitually injures any groups
of its members, it has become a tyranny; it has ceased to be a true society, and
has lost its reason for existence.
As Socialists, we say, that society is embodied for two purposes, the increase of
wealth by means of the combination and cooperation of the varying powers and
capacities of men, and the equitable distribution of the wealth so produced; and as
each man's capacities can be used for the benefit of the community, and as the
needs of all men are at least similar, we claim the right for every person born
into society to a full share of the sum of benefits produced by it: whosoever is
kept out of this share, whether by force or fraud, is not a member of society, but
has been thrust out of it, and owes no allegiance to it.
But the society of the present day, that of the capitalist wage-earner, of rich and
poor, by no means admits this claim; on the contrary, the essence of it is the
denial of this right and the assertion of an arbitrary inequality. It is an
exclusive society, a combination of privileged persons united for the purpose of
excluding the majority of the population from participation in the wealth which
they (the workers) make. The system whereby this privilege is sustained, is the
exclusive ownership by the privileged classes of the means of production, that is
to say, the land, and the tolls and appliances necessary to combined labor, namely
the factories; machinery; railways, and other means of transit. The working-classes
are not allowed to use these means of production except on the terms of their
giving up everything to the possessing classes, save the bare necessities of life.
These so-called higher classes, therefore, are enabled to live upon the labor of
the workers, who are thus deprived of all the advantages gained by an advanced
state of civilization: the productivity of labor has increased enormously within
the last 400 years, but the working-classes have not shared in the gains of that
increase in power; all that they have done is to create a large and prosperous
middle-class, which consists in part of their direct employers, i.e.,
their masters, and in part of those who minister to the pleasure and luxury of
The workers therefore, we repeat, are not a part of capitalist society, since they
do not share in the wealth produced for it, they are but its machinery, and are not
protected or sustained by it; for them it has ceased to be a society, and has
become a tyranny; and it is a tyrannywhose subjects are not an inferior race of
feeble and incapable persons, but the useful part of the population.
Such a society (so called) dominating populations, the useful part of which is
out-lawed, cannot be stable; it holds within itself the elements of its own
dissolution; and it can only go on existing by the repression by force and fraud of
all serious and truthful thought and all aspirations for betterment. It is
conceivable though, we believe, improbable, that it may still further degrade the
working-classes, till it has crushed all resistance out of them, and made them
slaves more hopeless and more hapless than the world has yet seen. But the whole
evolution of society and all the signs of the times bid us hope for a better fate
than this for our epoch. It is becoming clearer day by day that the thought and the
hopes of the working classes (who are being gradually educated into a knowledge of
their unworthy position), and the force lying latent in them for a new order of
things cannot be repressed; that the tyranny of privilege is weakening,
and that we are within sight of its overthrow.
It is beyond a doubt that if the workers unite to claim their heritage, the due
membership of society, the tyranny of privilege must fall before them, and that
true society will rise out of its ruins.
For here we must say that it is not the dissolution of society for which we strive,
but its reintegration. The idea put forward by some who attack present society, of
the complete independence of every individual, that is, for freedom without
society, is not merely impossible of realization, but, when looked into, turns out
to be inconceivable.
As Socialists, it is a true society which we desire. Of that true society the
workers contain the genuine elements, although they are outcasts from the false
society of the day, the tyranny of privilege; and it is their business to show the
privileged that it is so, by constituting themselves even now, under the present
tyranny, into a society of labor definitely opposed to the society of privilege.
Such a society would be able to ameliorate the lot of the workers by wringing
concessions from the masters, while it was sapping the strong-hold of privilege,
the individual ownership of the means of production, and developing capacity for
administration in its members; so that when the present system is overthrown they
might be able to carry on the business of the community without waste or disaster.
To further this militant society of labor we believe to be the business of all
Socialists, but we would say a word about the part in this business which we
believe should be the special work of the Hammersmith Socialist Society and others,
who are neither State Socialists nor Anarchists.
We believe then, that it should be our special aim to make Socialists, by putting
before people, and especially the working-classes, the elementary truths of
Socialism; since we feel sure, in the first place, that in spite of the stir in the
ranks of labor, there are comparatively few who understand what Socialism is, or
have had opportunities of arguing on the subject with those who have at least begun
to understand it; and, in the second place, we are no less sure that before any
definite Socialist action can be attempted, it must be backed up by a
great body of intelligent opinion - the opinion of a great mass of people who are
already Socialists, people who know what they want, and are prepared to accept the
responsibilities of self-government, which must form a part of their claims.
It may be, nay, probably will be, necessary that various crude experiments in the
direction of State Socialism should be tried, but we say if this be so, let them be
advocated by those who believe that they see in them a solution of the social
question, rather than by those who, not so believing, merely wish to use the
advocacy of them as a political expedient for strengthening their position as
exponents of Socialism.
On the other hand we deprecate spasmodic and desperate acts of violence, which will
only increase the miseries of the poor and the difficulties of Socialists by
alarming the timid, and giving opportunities for repression to the capitalist
executive, and which must of necessity be carried on by men who know nothing of
their position, except that they are suffering, and who, in consequence, will yield
easily to those who may relieve their sufferings temporarily. At the same time, we
know that it may be necessary to incur the penalties attaching to passive
resistance, which is the true weapon of the weak and unarmed, and which embarrasses
a tyranny far more than acts of hopeless violence can do, turning the apparent
victories of the strong and unjust into real defeats for them.
Furthermore, as Socialists, we would remind our brethren generally that, though we
cannot but sympathize with all struggles of the workers against their masters,
however partial they may be, however much they may fall short of complete and
effective combinations, yet we cannot fail to see that of themselves these
partial struggles will lead nowhere; and that this must always be the case as long
as the workers are the wage-slaves of the employers.
We, therefore, earnestly urge the workers to lose no time in constituting a general
combination of labor, whose object will be the abolition of privilege by means of
obtaining for labor the complete control of the means of production, which must be
the first step in the realization of Socialism. With the object steadily in view,
such a combination will gain ever fresh advantages for the workers: everyone of
which, be it remembered must necessarily be gained at the expense of the
capitalists. It will drive them from position after position, until at last they
will find themselves burdened with a responsibility which carries no privilege, and
will call upon the workers to take that responsibility on themselves, and
themselves carry on the work of the world.
It is the business of all Socialists to do their best to bring it about, that in
that day the masters will be addressing men who are willing and able to accept that
responsibility, because they know, that they, who were once outcasts from society,
have now become society itself.
In this hope, we appeal to all workers to learn to understand their true position;
to understand that they have no hope of bettering their condition save by general
combination; but, that, by means of that general combination they may become
irresistible, that their demands must then be yielded to. But, unless they
know what to demand, they will not be really strong, nay, without that knowledge,
complete combination is impossible.
You that are not Socialists, therefore, learn, and in learning teach us, that when
we know, we may be able to act, and so realize the new order of things, the
beginnings of which we can already see, though we cannot picture to ourselves its