Saturday, 13 July 2024

‘Old Thunder’: Neither Capitalism Nor Socialism (Part 3)

Hilaire Belloc (1870 – 1953) was a noted Anglo-French historian, orator, poet, politician, sailor, satirist, soldier and writer. A critic of both capitalism and socialism, Belloc – along with G. K. Chesterton, Cecil Chesterton & Arthur Penty – became one of the main advocates of Distributism. The National Liberal Party is drawn to his economic ideal of the widest possible spread of ownership of land, property, or workplace.

JOSEPH HILAIRE PIERRE RENÉ BELLOC was born in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, France, on 27th July, 1870 and died on 16th July 1953 in Guildford, Surrey, England.  His mother – Bessie Rayner Parkes Belloc – was an English writer, activist and noted feminist and his father  – Louis Belloc – was a French barrister.  Belloc’s father died when Hilaire was two years old.  His mother moved back to England and brought him and his elder sister, Marie Adelaide Elizabeth, to live in Slindon, West Sussex.    

During his life, Hilaire Belloc was known as an historian, orator, poet, politician, sailor, satirist, soldier and writer.  A critic of both capitalism and socialism, Belloc – along with G. K. Chesterton, Cecil Chesterton & Arthur Penty – became one of the main advocates of Distributism.  Here, Belloc believed in the widest possible spread of ownership of land, property, or workplace.   

National Liberals regard him as a ‘point of interest’ in that he said – or did – things that are of interest us.  This doesn’t mean that we put Belloc, on a pedestal so to speak.  Indeed, we’re fully aware that some of his views may be viewed as ‘controversial’ or regressive.  However, we believe that most, if not all, humans are fairly complex characters.  We’re full of contradictions & we feel that it’s next to impossible to paint individuals completely in terms of good and bad.  For instance, Belloc was very ‘conservative’ when it came to social issues like the role of women in society.  Yet, it could be argued that – economically – he was ‘revolutionary’ when  it came to his views on capitalism & socialism and the need for Distributism.  

With the above in mind, some time ago our attention was drawn to an old article – – which appeared on the Old Thunder Belloc blogsite.  It is a reprint of Belloc’s Neither Capitalism Nor Socialism, first published in the July 1937 issue of The American Mercury.  (‘Old Thunder’ is a reference to the Anglo-French historian, essayist and poet, Hilaire Belloc.)  This section of the article should be read directly on from Parts 1and 2  – see links below.  

It goes without saying that there are no links between The American Mercury, the Old Thunder Belloc blogsite & the National Liberal Party.  It should also be noted that whilst Belloc was a Catholic, the NLP welcomes members & supporters from all religions and none.  Please note that we’ve kept the original US spellings as they are.

This ephemeral but acute phase of social history which we call Capitalism and for which Proletarianism would be a better word, subjects free men arbitrarily to the will of other citizens, their political equals, and compels them to this subjection through the mere power of many. There is no bond of duty such as co-exists with Status; there is no obligation of loyalty, not any mutuality of service. The man who has nothing must work for the man who has the goods, and as both are completely free, the man, who has nothing can legally be deprived of his livelihood at any moment at the caprice of the man who has the goods. The material evils accompanying this spiritual evil of degrading subjection with no moral sanction to enforce it, are insecurity of livelihood for nearly all, and a permanent measure of insufficiency for a great part of society.

It should have been clear that such a state of affairs could not endure one it had become widespread. So long as it was confined to a comparatively small proportion of the people, it would hobble along though with great friction; when it becomes the rule, when the mass of men are wage-earners at the mercy of a minority of capitalists, it is certain that the wage-earners if they remain politically free will rebel. We know the for that rebellion has taken with free labor—interference by conspiracy and combination: strikes on the one hand and lock-outs on the other—all the elements of a simmering civil war. To restore peace and achieve a stable society there are only three policies possible. Either we must abolish capitalism by putting the means of production into the hands of State officials, in which case all citizens will lose their freedom and becomes slaves of a Communist State. The half-free proletariat will lose such freedom as they have, and the wholly free possessor of capital will lose his entire freedom.

Or, as a second policy, we can enslave the proletariat; compel them by force to work for the profit of owners. In other words, we can re-establish private slavery. That is a very stable arrangement of society and a permanent one; we all came out of it and it would be natural that we should return to it. Indeed, anyone with a long vision may think to foresee our return to it and perceive already the beginnings of the Servile State.

If we reject these two solutions—the Communist solution and the Servile State—there remains the Proprietary solution, the setting up of a social system in which ownership is the general rule and universal popular freedom is accompanied by widespread economic freedom; a state of society in which the normal citizen owns land or housing or both and has a share of profits from commercial enterprise, from State bonds or in general revenue from investment, as well as revenue earned by his own labor. We know well that such a state of society can be for we belonged to it in the immediate past; the United States within living memory was a Distributist society, and Denmark almost wholly so. The government of Italy today is aiming at Distributism; the independent Irish have made it the main part of their political program.

• THIS ARTICLE should be read in conjunction with:

 ‘Old Thunder’: Neither Capitalism Nor Socialism (Part 1)‘old-thunder’-neither-capitalism-nor-socialism-part-1  

 ‘Old Thunder’: Neither Capitalism Nor Socialism (Part 2)‘old-thunder’-neither-capitalism-nor-socialism-part-2  

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