William Morris. Commonweal 1886

Notes and Queries:
Practical Socialism

Source: “Notes and Queries — Practical Socialism,” Commonweal, Vol 2, No. 20, 29 May 1886, p.71;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

A friend who says that he quite understands the theory of Socialism, has some questions on its ‘practical application’:-

(1) Will there be any shopkeepers or public houses in the new state of society, and if not how are things to be exchanged? (2) Will there by any money used? (3) Who will superintend workmen in factories, etc.? ‘These’, says our friend, ‘are questions I am constantly asked, and am unable to give a satisfactory reply to; I want to see a plan as it were of the new state of Society.’

When the plan is visible the new state of Society will be realized, it cannot be visible before. As to questions 1 and 2, it must be pointed out that the essence of the new Society is that both the production and the distribution of goods will be carried on for the benefit of the community, instead of as now for the gain of individuals at the expense of the community. Of course there will be distributors of goods (which goods will, I hope, include drinks, as we shall it is to be hoped be able to enjoy ourselves without bestiality on one side, so shall not need total abstinence ritual on the other). A dozen ‘plans’ for such distribution might be made, but none of them would be of any particular value. We shall follow the ‘plan’ which we find to be necessary and useful. Money will be used if necessary, as it may be at first, but will only be used as counters representing so much labour. As to question 3, the answer is those who are fit to superintend will do so and will do it willingly as it will be easy for them, since they are fit for it; the workmen whom they direct will also follow that direction willingly, as they will find out that doing so will make their work easier and more effective; also on every workman will rest a due share of responsibility, he will not be as he is now a mere irresponsible machine.

Our friend also wants some information about the revolutionary movements in other countries. He will find a good deal in the Commonweal on this head. As to the differences of opinion amongst Socialists, these must exist, but it is surely a mistake to further their crystalisation into parties with names attached to them that by no means always mean the same thing. There is no difference whatever between the aims of the English and the Foreign Socialists, the different shades of opinion are represented in all countries, and all share this aim, the destruction of the system which robs the workman of the fruits of his labour, which robbery our friend says the field labourers he talks with can see clearly. This last fact is better news than even he perhaps thinks. He says also that he cannot get them to ‘organize’. Let him try his best in the confidence that the course of events will force them to do so.