The Road To Freedom,
And What Lies Beyond


Josiah and Ethel Wedgwood

[Published in London by C.W. Daniel, Ltd., 1913]


"Social Reforms" deal with results, not with causes.
The workers themselves are more concerned with the results of their slavery than with the slavery itself ; and their organised efforts have been directed to making the circumstances of their bondage less harsh and uncertain ; and since, under the system, everyone must be wholly slave, or partly slave owner, it is at this latter state that they chiefly aim. Moreover, seeing that the indulgences and pleasures which make their slavish condition tolerable come from the slave labour of others, they are the less eager to cut at the root of these compensations. Indeed, it is common to find Labour men advocating "compulsory industrial labour," as if there were no alternative to idleness but a limited number of hours at the treadmill.
Lecturers and writers also tell the people that modern civilisation is the most glorious achievement of the human race ; and that in turning out by the latest application of science all manner of articles, many useless or harmful, they are serving humanity, and helping to confer benefits which would be inestimable if they were only distributed fairly. Many such people actually believe that a man can quite justly be forced to spend his strength and intelligence on labour in which his own will and wishes have no part, provided that he receives his equal share of the produce of all such labour, and that his health and efficiency are not damaged in the process. In their eyes the crime of monopoly is not that it has robbed men of their independence, but that it has robbed them of the largest part of their earnings. It is as though a galley-slave were to complain, not of the oars and the chain and the lash, but that his food and bedding fell below the Trades Union standard.

Political Programmes.
Political programmes cannot often be taken seriously as measures of constructive philosophy. In democratic countries they are of necessity opportunist, but they are a useful indicator as to what is popular or supposed to be popular at the period.
Those political parties which make most noise and have most pieces on exhibition, limit their objects, and generally their ideas also, to a series of domestic improvements.
They occupy themselves in trying to make men either richer or more efficient servants -- never in making them more free. No party is better than another in this respect; it is merely a question in what name the populace shall be ruled.
In Germany the Social -democratic party, which is the bogey of the middle classes, is in truth formidable, not from anything specially revolutionary in its ideas but from its bristling militancy and solidarity. It opposes both army and civil officialdom as the imperial tools, but is itself impregnated with the spirit of militarism and bureaucracy. It is no new mintage, but just the reverse side of the old coin. Its aims for the supremacy of the proletariat involve as great interference with the lives of the workers, and as much espionage and as summary treatment of individuals as the imperial regime. Being guided by materialistic ideals, they dread any sudden shock to the social fabric ; and hence, directly they come into a position of responsibility, their programme becomes revisionist, and their schemes are directed by that social science whose nostrums grow antiquated and have to be replaced every few years. Of the six items of the official Social-democratic programme for the new Reichstag of February 1912, two aim at increasing Parliamentary control on English seventeenth-century lines, while the other four are concerned with electoral reform.
In France we find the official Labour party absorbed in Proportional representation, and in a scheme for building, by money levied in taxation, the sort of houses that working men ought to want.

In England the Fabians, the official Labour Party and the Progressives throw their energies and talents into such proposals as: a limitation of the hours of active slavery to eight; a provision of creches with hygienic bottles and educational toys for the children of mothers obliged (under the industrial system) to go out to work; bureaus for registering who is engaged in wage work and who is not (with a view to compelling the man who is not in service to enter it at once); insurance schemes for putting part of that part of a workman's wages which he receives into the bank for him, so that he may go to authorised sanatoria when he is ill, and be attended by licensed doctors ; bills for making men and women decent by flogging them, and for locking up other people's children on humanitarian principles.
So do we see a conscientious house-mistress of the good old type take charge of her young maids' minds and morals, regulate household affairs so as to train them for good servants ; shepherd them to and from the established church in black frocks and bonnets; physic them with patent drugs when ill; provide them with suitable evening recreations, so that they may not be tempted to flirt at the back door; and treat every breakage of china or decorum as a breach of the decalogue.
Such a programme is of course attractive to the political schoolmasters who have climbed into intellectual pre-eminence on the shoulders of those who "swink with their hands." It is only by inventing things of that sort that they can justify to themselves their privileged position. As for the sheep, fortunately for the professional shepherds, they only ask to be more humanely fleeced and more comfortably folded by shepherds of their own selection. They do not yet believe in a world where sheep are neither shorn nor penned.

Alone, the Syndicalist movement, afoot in France, just stirring here, seems to show a blind and groping consciousness that more government is not what is wanted. This movement does not indeed show as yet any distinct conception of what, instead, is wanted. Its immediate programme still halts at the old socialist demands for an obligatory eight- hours day and a minimum wage. It shows signs of the amalgam of opposite elements, anarchic and socialist, of which it is composed. But it is gathering force and manifesting an increasingly definite hostility to bureaucratic methods. In it there seems to be latent a different ideal, possibly a more spiritual one than is to be found in the old recognised parties. For this reason it is regarded by them with aversion and fear; because to secure the maximum material prosperity you must also have the maximum control over the producers of it, and the rule of the expert over the unlearned. In the only great effort that has been made towards industrial freedom in recent years in England - the miners' strike of March 1912, and the anti-militarist agitation connected with it -- we find the official Labour party timid and powerless, and concealing ill their hostility towards any rebel action by that class whom they are supposed to represent.

Why the Workers have sought Refuge in State Socialism.
There are three main reasons why the workers have hitherto looked foremost to their bodily comforts, and put their liberty second. The first cause is urgent poverty. When hunger takes shape and substance, then everything else becomes a shadow; and there are not many - though every generation has a few -- who set freedom above food, and fire, and child. It is useless to expect lofty ideals among men made brutish by want.
On the other hand, as the primary necessities recede, and life and tempers get softer, resistance to the established order becomes more difficult, for there is more to lose, and suffering has become unaccustomed and more dreaded. The second cause then is, that the workers themselves feel the conveniences of the slave-system. They have developed a taste for cheap slave-made articles, and so have become small shareholders in the concern; and they also enjoy the absence of responsibility, absence of any mentally fatiguing demand for initiative, absence of worry about results.
But, above all, they have lost the imagination of freedom. They have discarded that store of hope and enterprise with which each child enters the world; and if by any chance they find themselves in the open country, away from tram-lines and the noise of other men's feet, they are frightened as at something unnatural.
In civilised countries the worship of individuality is fashionable only among the wealthy or the degenerate, with whom it is always a nauseous cult, and dependent on the exploitation of other people. The ordinary man cannot find much to choose between the Nietzscheism of the intellectual and the more sensual selfishness of the common pleasure-seeker. Their creeds are not meant for popularity. Both, in order to keep themselves white-skinned, demand too many horny hands in others. Therefore it is no wonder that individualism is supposed to be synonymous with egoism, and has fallen into disrepute; and that the masses who move and think and are ruled in regiments, fancy that safety can only be found in legislation that shall continually countermine every fresh mine laid by the individual exploiter.

"Social Reforms" perpetuate Slavery.
But not only is all this legislation of "social reform " a witness to the servile state of the people: it is actually involving them more irrecoverably in slavery. Those who urge against free meals for poor children that they will destroy parental responsibility, have this much truth on their side: not that the conditions under which the poor have to rear children are not flagrantly unjust, not that it is easy for the wealthy to give to the poor anything which is not merely a toll on wrongly-gotten gains, but that every provision made for the poor by private individuals or by the State brings the poor into still greater bondage to the system under which they receive it. Such doles make them more acquiescent in their servitude, less willing to recognise it, less ready to sacrifice immediate comfort in order to attain freedom. And of the two kinds, the State dole is worse than the private dole.
It is at this time fashionable to preach that public institutions should replace private associations for charitable purposes. If it is desired to manage other people's lives for them, it is certainly done with more method and less overlapping by the Government than by a score of separate leagues; and possibly, on the whole, more cheaply also, even allowing for the large salaries paid to permanent officials.
But private charity has at least this to be said in its favour, that the individual dispensing it in person gives with it the only things which are really his to give - and those which have most value -- sympathy and personal service 1; and self-denial may also come in, for even though the money which the giver forgoes does not in equity belong to him, yet he thinks it belongs, and so probably does the recipient. It is probable that private alms-giving, however inadequate and however misdirected, is less demoralizing.
This, of course, is only true when the assistance is of a strictly parochial character, from individual to individual. Large associations (like the C.O.S.), drawing funds from outsiders and worked by business agents, have many of the faults as well as the advantages of a State bureau, and the donations sent them wholesale by wealthy persons are so much "conscience money" paid to the Treasury -- to the community than the carefully graded benefits apportioned by the State. It is true that in Naples there are more beggars visible, but at any rate they are close to the church doors and they sit in the sun.
When Government officials dispense old-age and sick pensions, free breakfasts, free medical aid, and such like, they are merely re-distributing among the workers the money taken in taxation from the workers themselves, after some of the cream has been incidentally skimmed off to pay the minister who devises the scheme, those more powerful adherents whose support keeps him in authority, and the numerous subordinates who do this valuable task of collecting the workers' money and restoring it to them again. And though, according to the more popular method, they take the money directly from the rich, yet it ultimately comes from the workers, by whose labours the rich got it.
Such arrangements are precisely similar to that of a certain German coal-mine, where the foreman of several gangs (who engaged the men) ran a soup- kitchen for their benefit, received their pay for them, and, after deducting the cost of the kitchen and of his own trouble, passed on the remainder of the wages to the men to share out equally. They are analogous to the system by which the landowner pays the agricultural labourer 14s. a week and a cottage - the cottage representing the balance of the wage, and having the effect of keeping the labourer stationary and docile.
Indeed, society's favourite methods -- both those of legislators and of philanthropists -- in providing for the proletariat, physically by soup-kitchens, infirmaries, etc., and morally by schools, institutes, etc., all bear a significant resemblance to the system of Truck-Wages, which, in private practice, was suppressed forty years ago.
The result is, plainly, not to make the workers better off than if they received the full reward of their labour and were left to their own devices to co-operate or act singly as they chose, but to keep them dependent on a system which makes and enforces these arrangements for their comfort. Just as we find that, where there is a kind-hearted squire, the poorer the labourer, the more he is attached to the feudal system.
In non-democratic countries, this is all more obvious ; but the Briton still fancies, because he has a four-millionth share in giving the majority to a certain set of governors, that therefore he is master of his own fate.


Chapter I
Where The Road Leads
Chapter II
On Free and Forced Exchange
Chapter III
On Social Reform
Chapter IV
The Strengthening of Government
Chapter V
The Roots of Slavery
Chapter VI
On Land and Capital
Chapter VII
Various Theories About Land Reform
Chapter VIII
Marginal Land and Economic Rent
Chapter IX
The Single Tax as a Method of Destroying Land Monopoly
Chapter X
The Next Revolution
Chapter XI
The Steps of the Change
Chapter XII
What It Would Mean
Chapter XIII
What Lies Beyond
* *