Some Thoughts on "Class Warfare Has Officially Begun".
It takes little courage to demand that those who do not hurt us take less, and a greater courage to demand more from those who will hurt us again.
Excerpts from Merrie England; a plain exposition of Socialism, what it is and what it is not. By Robert Blatchford. Copyright 1895.
I hope that up to this point I have been quite clear, and practical, and truthful.
Of course you have read Robinson Crusoe. You know that he was shipwrecked upon an island, and had to provide for himself. He raised corn, tamed goats, dried raisins, built himself a house, and made vessels of clay, clothing of skins, a boat and other useful things. If he had set to work making bead necklaces and feather fans before he secured food and lodging you would say he was a fool and that he did not make the most of his time and his island.
But what would you call him if he had starved and stinted himself in order to make bead necklaces and feather fans for some other person who was too lazy to work?
Whatever you call him, you may call yourself, for you are wasting your time and your chances in the effort to support idle people and vain things.
Now to our problem. How are we to make the best of our country, and of our lives? What things do we need in order to secure a happy, healthy, and worthy human life?
We may divide the things needful into two kinds—mental and physical. That is to say, the things needful for the body and the things needful for the mind. Here again I differ very much from the self-styled practical people of the Manchester school.
My ideal is frugality of body and opulence of mind. I suggest that we should be as temperate and as simple as possible in our use of mere bodily necessaries, so that we may have as much time as possible to enjoy pleasures of a higher, purer, and more delightful kind.
Your Manchester school treat all social and industrial problems from the standpoint of mere animal subsistence. They do not «eetn to think that you Aave any mind, With them it is a question of bread and cheese and be thankful. They are like the man in "Our Mutual Friend" who estimated the needs of the ferryman's daughter in beef and beer. It was a question, he said, "of so many pounds of beef, and so many pints of porter." That beef and that porter were the "fuel to supply that woman's engine," and, of course, she was only to have just as much fuel as would keep fhe engine working at high pressure. But I submit to you that such an estimate would be an insult to a horse.
Your Manchester school claim to be practical men, and always swear by facts. As I said before, I reverence facts; but I want all the facts, not a few of them. If I am to give a verdict, I must hear the whole of the evidence. Suppose a gardener imagined that all a flower needed was earth and manure, and so planted his ferns on the sunny side and his peaches on the shady side of h1s garden. Would you call h"im a practical man? You will see what I mean. Soil is a "fact," and manure is a "fact." But the habit of a plant is a "fact" also, and so are sunshine and rain "facts."
Turn, then, from plants to men, and tell me are appetites the only facts of human nature? Do men need nothing but food, and shelter, and clothes? It is true that bread, and meat, and wages and sleep are "facts," but they are not the only facts of life. Men have imaginations and passions as well as appetites.
I must ask you to insist upon hearing all the evidence. I must ask you to use your eyes and ears, to examine your memory, to consult your own experience and the experience of the best and wisest men who have lived, and to satisfy yourself that although wheat and cotton and looms and plows and bacon and blankets and hunger and thirst and heat and cold are facts, they are not the only facts, nor even the greatest facts of life.
For love is a fact, and hope is a fact, and rest, and laughter, and music, and knowledge are facts; and facts which have to be remembered and have to be reckoned with before we can possibly solve the problem of how the British people are to make the best of their country and themselves.
A life which consists of nothing but eating, and drinking, and sleeping, and working, is not a human life—it is the life of a beast;' Such a life is not worth living. If we are to spend all our days and nights in a kind of penal servitude, continually toil1ng and suffering in order to live, we had better break at once the chains of our bitter slavery and die.