Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)
My Dear Mr. Kenworthy,
I look upon Tolstoy as the greatest Social Reformer of the Century and the most Christ-like man.
I have read through your articles on "The Anatomy of Misery." They are admirable, forcible and clear. I agree fully with them except the conclusion, which I find unnecessarily weak and hopeless. Surely there are two modes of action, either of which would bring about the "Co-operative Commonwealth"--the abolition of the rule of Capitalists and the abolition of private property in the nation's industry.
The first is, by the systematic extension of the Co-operative movement, the workers and Trade Unions devoting all their savings and accumulations of capital to establishing all kinds of productive industries themselves for their own consumption; thus absorbing first, all unemployed labour power, then withdrawing labour from the capitalists. This, if systematically pursued, would I believe in 50 years transfer the whole production of the necessaries and comforts of life to the workers themselves.
The next method is by the whole body of workers using their voting power to return representatives who would carry certain great reforms.
(A) Nationalize the railways and land--paying all existing owners a life-income only.
(B) Adopt the principle that the unborn have no property rights and abolish inheritance.
(C) Give to all children in future "equality of opportunity" to its fullest extent.
Voluntary and universal Co-operation would inevitably follow!
Both these methods are possible with men and women as they are. It only wants systematic education, and a body [[p. 99]] of energetic leaders, to bring them about. I prefer the second method as the more direct and immediately practicable.
I feel sure you must see the practicability of these or of some modifications of them. Why not adopt some such scheme of your own, not the weak and utterly useless plan of each one trying to live up to an ideal which you admit only a very small minority can ever attempt--and even they will effect practically nothing.
My work in these social matters has been very small--except as to Land Nationalisation, which I have now left behind. I am now passing through the press two volumes of my Review Articles, &c, under the title "Studies, Scientific and Social," which will comprise a few Socialistic Essays not before published, and which I hope may do a little for the cause. When that is out I have to prepare a new edition of my "Wonderful Century," and after that, if I live, I have promised my son and daughter to write an Autobiography of my early life.
When these are all out you will have the materials for writing anything you like about me; but I really think you had better employ yourself in devoting all your powers to the main problem, of how to reform our rotten Social System which you have so forcibly described.
I see in your book "From Bondage to Brotherhood," you do, in the last chapter, propose or suggest Co-operation, but from a hasty perusal it seems too vague. To me any exposition of evils without showing that there is a real, thorough, practical REMEDY, is all waste of time. Hundreds of such books have been written, and where are they, and what good have they done? "The Bitter Cry," and "Darkest England," and Booth's "Statistics" of London, "The White Slaves," "Life in West London," &c., &c. None of them propose a remedy, and they are all a nine day's horror, and then forgotten! What we want is to insist upon a definite programme--like the "five points of the Charter," and then, in season and out of season, keep [[p. 100]] it before the public (as the Alliance has done with drink), especially by debates in Parliament. Agitate! Agitate! Agitate! Never cease--but let it be for definite legislation, demonstrably leading one step towards the Co-operative Commonwealth, and the abolition of want. I tried the proposal of "free-bread" in the last chapter of my "Wonderful Century" as a temporary palliative, and I am sure it is a good proposal, since it would demonstrably abolish actual starvation, but nobody had a good word to say for it! I myself would advocate free bread, free coals and free house--the minimum essentials of life, far cheaper in the end than poor laws--all to be paid for from the surplus wealth of the rich by a progressive tax on all property above £100,000 till it would absorb all surplus above a million. Then we should have breathing time, for education, agitation and remedial legislation. But while we talk and dream the poor starve and worse than starve.
Yours very sincerely,