Takver's Initiatives. P.O. Box 1078, Brunswick M.D.C, Victoria, 3056, Australia Previous Page TOC Next Page

Land Nationalisation, State Socialism and Modern Socialism
W.R. Winspear in 'The Australian Radical' May 26, 1888.

Left a legacy by a relative, he started 'the Radical' in Hamilton, NSW, later 'the Australian Radical'. This paper became the organ of the Sydney branch of the Australian Socialist League, Winspear himself adopting a 'free communist' position, until a difference of opinion with State-Socialist members in late 1889. The paper folded in 1890, but he continued his work as a socialist and labor-organiser in Sydney and Newcastle until well into the 1930's. He was active in the anti-conscription campaigns of 1915-16 and 1936-39 and is credited with the poem 'The Blood Vote.'

Some time ago Mr W. Gilford forwarded to our office a tract of his entitled, "Land Nationalisation the Key to Social Harmony". The tract has deservedly had a wide circulation, and the matter thereof is doubtless familiar to many of our readers. It is rather lengthy or we should certainly have reprinted it in extenso, as we desire to make a few comments upon it. A few extracts however will be sufficient to show how far we are in accord with Mr Gilford, and upon what points we are inclined to disagree ...

We attach more importance to the humble publications of the workers than we do to the well-reported and lengthy lucubrations of the hon. members. For advanced ideas we have learned to look anywhere but into Parliament, and are only sorry that so many earnest workers are cursed with what Spencer calls the 'Political Superstition' . . .

Mr Gilford commences with the following words:-

There are three grave errors in the above paragraph and which seem to run all through Mr Gilford's tract and influence him in his conclusions. In the first liberty and co-operation are not conflicting impulses: in the second, the unchecked action of liberty will not drive men into barbarism; and in the third co-operation never differentiates human society into masters and slaves.

It seems to us that Mr Gilford has mistaken co-operation for in all industrial undertakings where individuals are unfettered they voluntarily co-operate. The conflicting impulses which have been distracting mankind are liberty and Authority, but co-operation is distinct from authority, and the latter part of Mr Gilford's sentence shows that it is authority instead of co-operation which he means. This becomes still more apparent when he says:

There are two kinds of Socialists - those who follow LIBERTY and those who follow AUTHORITY; the latter are State Socialists, and it is to them that Mr Gilford refers. State Socialism is unrestricted AUTHORITY, which involves a denial of true co-operation, and ends up in slavery as Herbert Spencer has so well and ably shown. Modern Socialism aims at unrestricted Liberty and equitable co-operation.

The unchecked action of Authority leads to State Socialism or Governmental control of society and would wind up by establishing a state code of morals, a system of state education, state systems of production, exchange and distribution. Under State Socialism land, capital and all means of production would be in the hands of the state, and every individual would be a state officer, employed and paid by the state. The majority would endeavour to have everything its own way, even to the establishment of a Caesar or a Boulanger. All monopolies would be swallowed by the supreme monopolist, and the monopolises would become the officers of the State, - the superior officers no doubt. Fat billets and lean ones would still exist and to judge from what we know of State control and direction, the fat billets would not go to those who were most worthy. The disease of Society is monopoly and State Socialists seek to cure it by monopoly. It is to this class of Socialists that Mr Gilford and other land-taxers belong. They desire to free labor from the clutches of monopoly, and put labor in possession of its own, but they seek to do it by adding to the power of Authority. They are already in favor of State control of the -

They are in favour of this large measure of State Socialism and are preparing to follow Authority still further by the confiscation of rent for revenue purposes. Mr Gilford asks:-

Mr Gilford then proceeds to show that taxation of land, adjusted in a speacial way, will create such a fund, yet he perhaps will see that taxation is paid by the industrious. He should see that the workers pay all taxes, and that to create a fund by taxation is to lessen the reward of industry no matter how directly it may be done.

Land taxation and Land Nationalisation then, are steps in the direction of State Socialism, inasmuch as they seek to cure land monopoly by authoritarian means and put labor in possession of all monopolies by building up one monopoly. This will undoubtedly bring them into conflict with that other principle - Liberty; and as they succeed in building up the State monopoly, so will they build up Authority, and crush Liberty out. They will thus fail to secure labor its full reward.

While Mr Gilford pleads for Land Nationalisation, Authority and State Socialism he says:-

If Mr Gilford means the most perfect system of State Socialism and he appears to do so, as his idea of Socialism is an idea of governmental authority and control - we fail to see how anarchistic liberty is going to be accompanied by it, since the two principles are opposed. For instance, a man cannot work to repress authority by building it up. The path of liberty and the path of authority are running in different directions, and it is impossible for a man or a body of men to follow both. You must either declare for State Socialism based upon authority or Modern Socialism based upon liberty; there is no halting ground between them. Accept the former, and you must work for land taxation, and other steps and wind up by failing to put labor in possession of its own, but accept the latter and work along in the direction of liberty, and you end by abolishing privileged monopoly, the very disease which is crushing labor ...

Enough has been written by the Spencers, Mills and Proudhons against authority to warn men against it; and men have ample opportunities of judging of the effects of liberty in the past to encourage them to strive for it and to shape their course in its direction. The higher humanity declare for it, and all human beings who have control of themselves to any extent, feel that control by others is oppression. They feel that they do not need it and are hence against paying for it. But somehow a number of men seem to think that every other man needs watching and controlling, and few say to themselves - "I do not need coercing and controlling, and it is just possible that my neighbour does not."

Modern Socialism declares for Liberty and against authority and Modern Socialists are working for Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, which means briefly, the absence of coercion, monopoly and social discord. Liberty ... is not the outcome of order but actually the cause of it. Proudhon says Liberty is the mother, not the daughter of Order, a brief statement of an eternal truth; and it is simply wonderful that men will so steadily oppose liberty under the impression that it leads to social discord and barbarism.

Land Nationalists, like Mr Gilford, are advancing towards the very Socialism they condemn, and they unwittingly confound true Socialism and misrepresent it ... Many good and earnest Socialists have travelled along the same lines. They have commenced to study Land Nationalisation, and have found that it lands them into State Socialism, which they finally reject for Socialism based on Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, principles which are more in conformity with the evolution of human intelligence and the universal law of progress.

Contact Takver with questions or comments about this web site.

Last modified: May 1, 1999

[ Top of Page ] [ Takver's Initiative ] [ Radical Tradition Contents ]
Previous Page Page Top TOC Next Page