279 reads


by H.G. WellsDecember 21st, 2022
Read on Terminal Reader
Read this story w/o Javascript
tldt arrow

Too Long; Didn't Read

Before I conclude this compact exposition of modern Socialism, it is reasonable that the reader should ask for some little help in figuring to himself this new world at which we Socialists aim.
H.G. Wells HackerNoon profile picture

New Worlds For Old: A Plain account of Modern Socialism by H. G. Wells, is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. SOME ARGUMENTS AD HOMINEM


§ 1.

Before I conclude this compact exposition of modern Socialism, it is reasonable that the reader should ask for some little help in figuring to himself this new world at which we Socialists aim.

“I see the justice of much of the Socialist position,” he will say, “and the soundness of many of your generalizations. But it still seems to remain—generalizations; and I feel the need of getting it into my mind as something concrete and real. What will the world be like when its state is really a Socialist one? That’s my difficulty.”

The full answer to that would be another book. I myself have tried to render my own personal dream in a book called A Modern Utopia, but that has not been so widely read as I could have wished, it does not appeal strongly enough, perhaps, to the practical every-day side of life, and here I may do my best to give very briefly some intimation of a few of the differences that would strike a contemporary  if he or she could be transferred to the new order we are trying to evolve.

It would be a world and a life in no fundamental respect different from the world of to-day, made up of the same creatures as ourselves, as limited in capacity if not in outlook, as hasty, as quick to take offence, as egotistical essentially, as hungry for attention, as easily discouraged—they would indeed be better educated and better trained, less goaded and less exasperated, with ampler opportunities for their finer impulses and smaller scope for rage and secrecy, but they would still be human. At bottom it would still be a struggle for individual ends, albeit ennobled individual ends; for self-gratification and self-realization against external difficulty and internal weakness. Self-gratification would be sought more keenly in self-development and self-realization in service, but that is a change of tone and not of nature. We shall still be individuals. You might, indeed, were you suddenly flung into it, fail to note altogether for a long time the widest of the differences between the Socialist State and our present one—the absence of that worrying urgency to earn, that sense of constant economic insecurity, which afflicts all but the very careless or the very prosperous to-day. Painful things being absent are forgotten. On the same principle certain common objects of our daily life you might not miss  at all. There would be no slums, no hundreds of miles of insanitary, ignoble homes, no ugly health-destroying cheap factories. If you were not in the habit of walking among slums and factories you would scarcely notice that. Din and stress would be enormously gone. But you would remark simply a change in the atmosphere about you and in your own contentment that would be as difficult to analyze as the calm of a Sunday morning in sunshine in a pleasant country.

Let me put my conception of the Socialist world to a number of typical readers, as it were, so that they may see clearly just what difference in circumstances there would be for them if we Socialists could have our way now. Let me suppose them as far as possible exactly what they are now save for these differences.

Then first let us take a sample case and suppose yourself to be an elementary teacher. So far as your work went you would be very much as you are to-day; you would have a finer and more beautiful school-room perhaps, better supplied with apparatus and diagrams; you would have cleaner and healthier, that is to say brighter and more responsive children, and you would have smaller and more manageable classes. Schools will be very important things in the Socialist State, and you will find outside your class-room a much ampler building with open corridors, a library, a  bath, refectory for the children’s midday meal, and gymnasium, and beyond the playground a garden. You will be an enlisted member of a public service, free under reasonable conditions to resign, liable under extreme circumstances to dismissal for misconduct, but entitled until you do so to a minimum salary, a maintenance allowance, that is, and to employment. You will have had a general education from the State up to the age of sixteen or seventeen, and then three or four years of sound technical training, so that you will know your work from top to bottom. You will have applied for your present position in the service, whatever it is, and have been accepted, much as you apply and are accepted for positions now, by the school managers, and you will have done so because it attracted you and they will have accepted you because your qualifications seemed adequate to them. You will draw a salary attached to the position, over and above that minimum maintenance salary to which I have already alluded. You will be working just as keenly as you are now, and better because of the better training you have had, and because of shorter hours and more invigorating conditions, and you will be working for much the same ends, that is to say for promotion to a larger salary and wider opportunities and for the interest and sake of the work. In your leisure you may be studying, writing, or doing some work of  supererogation for the school or the State—because under Socialist conditions it cannot be too clearly understood that all the reasons the contemporary Trade Unionist finds against extra work and unpaid work will have disappeared! You will not in a Socialist State make life harder for others by working keenly and doing much if you are so disposed. You will be free to give yourself generously to your work. You will have no anxiety about sickness or old age, the State, the universal Friendly Society, will hold you secure against that; but if you like to provide extra luxury and dignity for your declining years, if you think you will be amused to collect prints or books, or travel then, or run a rose garden or grow chrysanthemums, the State will be quite ready for you to pay it an insurance premium in order that you may receive in due course an extra annuity to serve that end you contemplate.

You will probably live as a tenant in a house which may either stand alone or be part of a terrace or collegiate building, but instead of having a private landlord, exacting of rent and reluctant of repairs, your house landlord will very probably be, and your ground landlord will certainly be, the municipality, the great Birmingham or London or Hampshire or Glasgow or such-like municipality; and your house will be built solidly and prettily instead of being jerry-built and mean-looking, and  it will have bathroom, electric light, electrically equipped kitchen and so forth, as every modern civilized house might have and should have now. If your taste runs to a little close garden of your own, you will probably find plenty of houses with one; if that is not so, and you want it badly, you will get other people of like tastes to petition the municipality to provide some, and if that will not do, you will put yourself up as a candidate for the parish or municipal council to bring this about. You will pay very much the sort of rent you pay now, but you will not pay it to a private landlord to spend as he likes at Monte Carlo or upon foreign missions or in financing “Moderate” bill-posting or what not, but to the municipality, and you will pay no rates at all. The rent will do under Socialism what the rates do now. You cannot grasp too clearly that Socialism will abolish rates absolutely. Rates for public purposes are necessary to-day because the landowners of the world evade the public obligations that should, in common sense, go with the rent.

Light, heating, water and so on will either be covered by the rent or charged for separately, and they will be supplied just as near cost-price as possible. I don’t think you will buy coals, because I think that in a few years’ time it will be possible to heat every house adequately by electricity; but if I am wrong in that, then you will buy your coals  just as you do now, except that you will have an honest coal merchant, the Public Coal Service, a merchant not greedy for profit nor short in the weight, calculating and foreseeing your needs, not that it may profit by them but in order to serve them, storing coal against a demand and so never raising the price in winter.

I am assuming you are going to be a house occupier, but if you are a single man, you will probably live in pleasant apartments in an hotel or college and dine in a club, and perhaps keep no more than a couple of rooms, one for sleep and one for study and privacy of your own. But if you are a married man, then I must enlarge a little further upon your domestic details, because you will probably want a “home of your own.”…

§ 2.

Now, just how a married couple lives in the Socialist State will depend very much, as indeed it does now, on the individual relations and individual taste and proclivities of the two people most concerned. Many couples are childless now, and indisposed for home and children, and such people will also be found in the Socialist State, and in their case the wife will probably have an occupation and be a teacher, a medical practitioner, a government clerk or official, an artist, a milliner, and earn her own living. In which case they will share apartments,  perhaps, and dine in a club and go about together very much as a childless couple of journalists or artists or theatrical people do in London to-day. But of course if either of them chooses to idle more or less and live on the earnings of the other, that will be a matter quite between themselves. No one will ask who pays their rent and their bills; that will be for their own private arrangement.

But if they are not childless people, but have children, things will be on a rather different footing. Then they will probably have a home all to themselves, and that will be the wife’s chief affair; only incidentally will she attend to any other occupation. You will remember that the State is to be a sort of universal Friendly Society supplying good medical advice and so forth, and so soon as a woman is likely to become a mother, her medical adviser, man or woman as the case may be, will report this to the proper officials and her special income as a prospective mother in the State will begin. Then, when her child is born, there will begin an allowance for its support, and these payments will continue monthly or quarterly, and will be larger or smaller according first to the well-being of the child, and secondly to the need the State may have for children—so long as the children are in their mother’s care. All this money for maternity will be the wife’s independent income, and normally  she will be the house ruler—just as she is now in most well-contrived households. Her personality will make the home atmosphere; that is the woman’s gift and privilege, and she will be able to do it with a free hand. I suppose that for the husband’s cost in the household the present custom of cultivated people of independent means will continue, and he will pay over to his wife his share of the household expenses….

After the revenue in the domestic budget under Socialism one must consider the expenditure. I have already given an idea how the rent and rates, lighting and water are to be dealt with under Socialist conditions. For the rest, the housewife will be dealing on very similar lines to those she goes upon at present. She will buy what she wants and pay cash for it. The milkman will come in the morning and leave his “book” at the end of the week, but instead of coming from Mr. Watertap Jones’ or the Twenty-per-cent. Dairy Company, he will come from the Municipal Dairy; he will have no interest in giving short measure, and all the science in the State will be behind him in keeping the milk clean and pure. If he is unpunctual or trying in any way, the lady will complain just as she does now, but to his official superiors instead of his employer; and if that does not do, she and her aggrieved neighbours (all voters, you will understand) will put the thing to their representative in  the parish or municipal council. Then she will buy her meat and grocery and so on, not in one of a number of inefficient little shops with badly assorted goods under unknown brands as she does now if she lives in a minor neighbourhood, but in a branch of a big, well-organized business like Lipton’s or Whiteley’s or Harrod’s. She may have to go to it on a municipal electric car, for which she will probably pay a fare just as she does now, unless, perhaps, her house rent includes a season ticket. The store will not belong to Mr. Lipton or Mr. Whiteley or Mr. Harrod, but to the public—that will be the chief difference—and if she does not like her service she will be able to criticize and remedy it, just as one can now criticize and remedy any inefficiency in one’s local post-office. If she does not like the brands of goods supplied she will be able to insist upon others. There will be brands, too, different from the household names of to-day in the goods she will buy. The county arms of Devon will be on the butter paper, Hereford and Kent will guarantee her cider, Hampshire and Wiltshire answer for her bacon—just as now already Australia brands her wines and New Zealand protects her from deception (and insures clean, decent slaughtering) in the matter of Canterbury lamb. I rather like to think of the red dagger of London on the wholesome bottled ales of her great (municipalized) breweries, and Maidstone or Rochester, let us say, boasting a  special reputation for jam or pickles. Good honest food all of it will be, made by honest unsweated women and men, with the pride of broad vales and uplands, counties, principalities and great cities behind it. Each county and municipality will be competing freely against its fellows, not in price but quality, the cheeses of Cheshire against the cheeses of France and Switzerland, the beer of Munich against the Kentish brew; bread from the bakeries of London and Paris, biscuits from Reading town, chocolates from Switzerland and Bourneville, side by side with butter from the meadows of Denmark and Russia.

Then, when the provisions have been bought, she will go perhaps to the other departments of the great store and buy or order the fine linen and cotton of the Manchester men, the delicate woollens of the Bradford city looms, the silks of London or Mercia, Northampton or American boots, and so forth, just as she does now in any of the great stores. But, as I say, all these goods will be honest goods, made to wear as well as look well, and the shopman will have no “premiums” to tempt him to force rubbish upon her instead of worthy makes by specious “introduction.”

But suppose she wants a hat or a dress made. Then, probably, for all that the world is under Socialism she will have to go to private enterprise; a matter of taste and individuality such as dress cannot  be managed in a wholesale way. She will probably find in the same building as the big department store, a number of little establishments, of Madame This, of Mrs. That, some perhaps with windows displaying a costume or so or a hat or so, and here she will choose her particular artiste and contrive the thing with her. I am inclined to think the dressmaker or milliner will charge a fee according to her skill and reputation for designing and cutting and so on, and that the customer will pay the store separately for material and the municipal workshop for the making under the artiste’s direction. I don’t think, that is, that the milliner or dressmaker will make a trading profit, but only an artiste’s fee.

And if the lady wants to buy books, music, artistic bric-a-brac, or what not, she will find the big store displaying and selling all these things on commission for the municipal or private producers all over the world….

So much for the financial and economic position of an ordinary woman in a Socialist State. But management and economies are but the basal substance of a woman’s life. She will be free not merely financially; the systematic development of the social organisation and of the mechanism of life will be constantly releasing her more and more from the irksome duties and drudgeries that have consumed so much of the energies of her sex in the  past. She will be a citizen, and free as a man to read for herself, think for herself and seek expression. Under the law, in politics and all the affairs of life she will be the equal of a man. No one will control her movements or limit her actions or stand over her to make decisions for her. All these things are implicit in the fundamental generalization of Socialism, which denies property in human beings.

§ 3.

Perhaps now the reader will be able to figure a little better the common texture of the life of a teacher or a housewife under Socialism. And incidentally I have glanced at the position a clever milliner or dressmaker would probably have under the altered conditions. The great mass of the employés in the distributing trade would obviously be living a sort of clarified, dignified version of their present existence, freed from their worst anxieties, the terror of the “swap,” the hopeless approach of old age, and from the sweated food and accommodation of the living-in system. Under Socialism the “living-in” system would be incredible. Their conditions of life would approximate to those of the teacher. Like him they would be enrolled a part of a great public service, and like him entitled to a minimum wage, and over and above that they would draw salaries commensurate with the positions their energy and ability had won. The prosperous  merchant of to-day would find himself somewhere high in the hierarchy of the distributing service. If, for example, you are a tea merchant or a provision broker, then probably if you like that calling, you would be handling the same kind of goods, not for profit but efficiency, “shipping into the Midlands” from Liverpool, let us say, much as you do now. You would be keener on quality and less keen on deals; that is all. You would not be trying to “skin” a business rival, but very probably you would be just as keen to beat the London distributers and distinguish yourself in that way. And you would get a pretty good salary; modern Socialism does not propose to maintain any dead-level to the detriment of able men. Modern Socialism has cleared itself of that jealous hatred of prosperity that was once a part of class-war Socialism. You would be, you see, far more than you are now, one of the pillars of your town’s prosperity—and the Town Hall would be a place worth sitting in….

So far as the rank and file of the distributing service is concerned the chief differences would be a better education, security for a minimum living, an assured old age, shorter hours, more private freedom and more opportunity. Since the whole business would be public and the customer would be one’s indirect master through the polling booth, promotion would be far more by merit than it is now in private businesses, where irrelevant personal  considerations are often overpowering, and it would be open to any one to apply for a transfer to some fresh position if he or she found insufficient scope in the old one. The staff of the stores will certainly “live out,” and their homes and way of living will be closely parallel to that of the two people I have sketched in §§ 1 and 2.

In the various municipal and State Transit Services, the condition of affairs would be even closer to a broadened and liberalized version of things as they are. The conductors and drivers will no doubt wear uniforms for convenience of recognition, but a uniform will carry with it no association with the idea of a livery as it does at the present time. Mostly this service will be run by young men, and each one, like the private of the democratic French Army, will feel that he has a marshal’s batôn in his knapsack. He will have had a good education; he will have short hours of duty and leisure for self-improvement or other pursuits, and if he remains a conductor or driver all his life he will have only his own unpretending qualities to thank for that. He will probably remain a conductor if he likes to remain a conductor, and go elsewhere if he does not. He is not obliged to take that batôn out and bother with it if he has quiet tastes.

The great organized industries, mining, cotton, iron, building and the like, would differ chiefly in the permanence of employment and the systematic  evasion of the social hardship caused now-a-days by new inventions and economies in method. There will exist throughout the world an organized economic survey, which will continually prepare and revise estimates of the need of iron, coal, cloth and so forth in the coming months; the blind speculative production of our own times is due merely to the dark ignorance in which we work in these matters, and with such a survey, employment will lose much of the cruel intermittence it now displays. The men in these great productive services, quite equally with teachers and railwaymen, will be permanently employed. They will be no more taken on and turned off by the day or week than we should take on or turn off an extra policeman, or depend for our defence upon soldiers casually engaged upon the battlefield at sixpence an hour. And if by adopting some ingenious device we dispense suddenly with the labour of hundreds of men, the Socialist State will send them, not into the casual wards and colonies as our State does, to become a social burthen there, but into the technical schools to train for some fresh use of their energies. Taken all round, of course, these men, even the least enterprising or able, will be better off than they are now, with a fuller share of the product of their industry. Many will no doubt remain as they are, rather through want of ambition than want of push, because under Socialism life will be tolerable for a  poor man. A man who chooses to do commonplace work and spend his leisure upon chess or billiards, or in gossip or eccentric studies, or amusing but ineffectual art, will remain a poor man indeed, but not be made a wretched one. Sheer toil of a mechanical sort there is little need of in the world now, it could be speedily dispensed with at a thousand points were human patience not cheaper than good machinery, but there will still remain ten thousand undistinguished sorts of work for unambitious men….

If you are a farmer or any sort of horticulturist, a fruit or flower grower, let us say, or a seedsman, you will probably find yourself still farming under Socialism—that is to say, renting land and getting what you can out of it. Your rent will be fixed just as it is to-day by what people will give. But your landlord will be the Municipality or the County, and the rent you pay will largely come back to you in repairs, in the guiding reports and advice of the Agricultural Department, in improved roads, in subventions to a good electric car service to take your produce to market; in aids and education for your children. You will probably have a greater fixity of tenure and a clearer ownership in improvements than you have to-day. I am inclined to think that your dairying and milking and so forth will be done for you wholesale in big public dairies and mills because of the economy of that; you will send  up the crude produce and sell it, perhaps, to the county association to brand and distribute. It is probable you will sell your crops standing, and the public authority will organize the harvesting and bring out an army of workers from the towns to gather your fruit, hops and corn. You will need, therefore, only a small permanent staff of labourers, and these are much more likely to be partners with you in the enterprise than wage workers needing to be watched and driven.

In your leisure you will shoot, perhaps, or hunt, if your tastes incline that way—it is quite likely that scattered among the farms of the future countryside will be the cottages and homes of all sorts of people with open-air tastes who will share their sports with you. One need not dread the disappearance of sport with the disappearance of the great house…. In the dead winter-time you will probably like to run into the nearest big town with your wife and family, stay in an hotel for a few weeks to talk to people in your clubs, see what plays there are in the municipal theatres and so forth. And you will no doubt travel also in your holidays. All the world will know something of the pleasures and freedom of travel, of wandering and the enjoyment of unfamiliar atmospheres, of mountains and deserts and remote cities and deep forests, and the customs of alien peoples.


A medical man or woman, or a dentist or any such skilled professional, like the secondary school-master, will cease to be a private adventurer under Socialism, concerned chiefly with the taking of a showy house and the use of a showy conveyance; he or she will become part of one of the greatest of all the public services in the coming time, the service of public health. Either he—I use this pronoun and imply its feminine—will be on the staff of one of the main hospitals (which will not be charities, but amply endowed public institutions), or he will be a part of a district staff, working in conjunction with a nursing organization, a cottage hospital, an isolation hospital and so forth, or he will be an advising specialist, or mainly engaged in research or teaching and training a new generation in the profession.

He must not judge his life and position quite by the lives and position of publicly endowed investigators and medical officers of health to-day. At present, because of the jealousy of the private owner who has, as he says, to “find the funds,” almost all public employment is badly paid relatively to privately earned incomes. The same thing is true of all scientific investigators and of most public officials. The state of things to which Socialism points is a world that will necessarily be harmonious  with these constructive conceptions and free from these jealousies. Whitehall and South Kensington have much to fear from the wanton columns of a vulgarized capitalistic press and from the greedy intrigues of syndicated capital, but nothing from a sane constructive Socialism. To the public official, therefore, of the present time, the Socialist has merely to say that he will probably be better paid, relatively, than he is now, and in the matter of his house rents and domestic marketing, vide supra….

But now, suppose you are an artist—and I use the word to cover all sorts of art, literary, dramatic and musical, as well as painting, sculpture, design and architecture—you want before all things freedom for personal expression, and you probably have an idea that this is the last thing you will get in the Socialist State. But, indeed, you will get far more than you do now. You will begin as a student, no doubt, in your local Municipal Art Schools, and there you will win prizes and scholarships and get some glorious years of youth and work in Italy or Paris, or Germany or London, or Boston or New York, or wherever the great teachers and workers of your art gather thickest; and then you will compete, perhaps, for some public work, and have something printed or published or reproduced and sold for you by your school or city; or get a loan from your home municipality for material—if your material costs money—and set to work making that  into some saleable beautiful thing. If you are at all distinguished in quality, you will have a competition among public authorities from the beginning, to act as sponsors and dealers for your work; benevolent dealers they will be, and content with a commission. And if you make things that make many people interested and happy, you may by that fortunate gift of yours, grow to be as rich and magnificent a person as any one in the Socialist State. But if you do not please people at all, either the connoisseurs of the municipal art collection or private associations of art patrons or the popular buyer, well, then your lot will be no harder than the lot of any unsuccessful artist now; you will have to do something else for a time and win leisure to try again.

Theatrical productions will be run on a sort of improvement upon contemporary methods, but there will be no cornering of talent possible, no wild advertisement of favoured stars upon strictly commercial lines, no Theatrical Trust. The theatres will be municipal buildings, every theatre-going voter will be keen to see them comfortable and fine; they will, perhaps, be run in some cases by a public repertoire company and in another by a lessee, and this latter may be financed by his own private savings or by subscribers or partners, or by a loan from the public bank as the case may be. This latter method of exploitation by a lessee will probably  also work best in the public Music Halls, but it is quite equally possible that these may be controlled by managers under partly elected and partly appointed public committees. In some cases the theatrical lessee might be a kind of stage society organized for the production of particular types of play. The spectators will pay for admission, of course, as they do now, but to the municipal box offices; and I suppose the lessee or the author and artists will divide up the surplus after the rent of the theatre has been deducted for the municipal treasury. In every town of any importance there will be many theatres, music halls and the like, perhaps under competing committees. In all these matters, as every intelligent person understands, one has to maintain variety of method, a choice of avenues, freedom from autocracies; and since the Socialist community will contain a great number of intelligent persons with leisure and opportunity for artistic appreciation, there is little chance of this important principle being forgotten, much less than there is in this world where a group of dealers can often make an absolute corner in this artistic market or that. You will not, under Socialism, see Sarah Bernhardt playing in a tent as she had to do in America, because all the theatres have been closed against her through some mean dispute with a Trust about the sharing of profits….

And if it is not too sudden a transition, it seems  most convenient in a Socialist State to leave religious worship entirely to the care of private people; to let them subscribe among themselves, subject, of course, to a reasonable statute of mortmain, to lease land, and build and endow and maintain churches and chapels, altars and holy places and meeting-houses, priests and devout ceremonies. This will be the more easily done since the heavy social burthens that oppress religious bodies at the present time will be altogether lifted from them; they will have no poor to support, no schools, no hospitals, no nursing sisters, the advance of civilization will have taken over these duties of education and humanity that Christianity first taught us to realize. So, too, there seems no objection and no obstacle in Socialism to religious houses, to nunneries, monasteries and the like, so far as these institutions are compatible with personal freedom and the public health, but of course factory laws and building laws will run through all these places, and the common laws and limitations of contract override their vows, if their devotees repent. So that you see Socialism will touch nothing living of religion, and if you are a religious minister, you will be very much as you are at the present time, but with lightened parochial duties. If you are an earnest woman and want to nurse the sick and comfort the afflicted, you will need only, in addition to your religious profession, to qualify as a nurse or medical practitioner. There  will still be ample need of you. Socialism will not make an end of human trouble, either of the body or of the soul, albeit it will put these things into such comfort and safety as it may.

§ 5.

And now let me address a section to those particular social types whose method of living seems most threatened by the development of an organized civilization, who find it impossible to imagine lives at all like their own in the Socialist State….

But first it may be well to remind them again of something I have already done my best to make clear, that the modern Socialist contemplates no swift change of conditions from those under which we live, to Socialism. There will be no wonderful Monday morning when the old order will give place to the new. Year by year the great change has to be brought about, now by this socialization of a service, now by an alteration in the incidence of taxation, now by a new device of public trading, now by an extension of education. This problem at the utmost is a problem of adaptation, and for most of those who would have no standing under the revised conceptions of social intercourse, it is no more than to ask whether it is wise they should prepare their sons or daughters to follow in their  footsteps or consent to regard their callings as a terminating function.

So far as many professions and callings go, this matter may be dismissed in a few words. Under Socialism, while the particular trade or profession might not exist, there would probably be ample scope in the public machine for the socially more profitable employment of the same energies. A family solicitor, such as we know now, would have a poor time in a Socialist State, but the same qualities of watchful discretion would be needed at a hundred new angles and friction surfaces of the State organization. In the same way the private shopkeeper, as I have already explained, would be replaced by the department managers and buyers of the public stores, the rent collector, the estate bailiff—one might make long lists of social types who would undergo a parallel transformation.

But suppose now you are a servant, I mean a well-trained, expert, prosperous servant; would the world have no equivalent of you under the new order? I think probably it would. With a difference, there will be room for a vast body of servants in the Socialist State. But I think there will be very few servants to private people, and that the “menial” conception of a servant will have vanished in an entirely educated community. The domestic work of the ordinary home, one may prophesy confidently, will be very much reduced  in the near future whether we move toward Socialism or no; all the dirt of coal, all the disagreeableness attendant upon lamps and candles, most of the heavy work of cooking will be obviated by electric lighting and heating, and much of the bedroom service dispensed with through the construction of properly equipped bath-dressing-rooms. In addition, it is highly probable that there will be a considerable extension of the club idea; ordinary people will dine more freely in public places, and conveniences for their doing so will increase. The single-handed servant will have disappeared, and if you are one of that class you must console yourself by thinking that under Socialism you would have been educated up to seventeen or eighteen and then equipped for some more interesting occupation. But there will remain much need of occasional help of a more skilled sort, in cleaning out the house thoroughly every now and then, probably with the help of mechanisms, in recovering and repairing furniture, and in all this sort of “helping” which will be done as between one social equal and another, many people who are now, through lack of opportunity and education, servants, will no doubt be employed. But where the better type of service will be found will probably be in the clubs and associated homes, where pleasant-mannered, highly-paid, skilful people will see to the ease and comfort of a considerable  clientèle without either offence or servility. There still remains, no doubt, a number of valets, footmen, maids and so on, who under Socialism would not be servants at all, but something far better, more interesting and more productive socially.

But this writing of servants brings me now to another possibility, and that is that perhaps you are, dear reader, one of that small number of fortunate people, rich and well placed in the world, who even under existing conditions seem to possess all that life can offer a human being. You live beautifully in a great London house, waited upon by companies of servants, you have country seats with parks about them and fine gardens, you can travel luxuriously to any part of the civilized world and live sumptuously there. All things are done for you, all ways are made smooth for you. A skilled maid or valet saves you even the petty care of your person; skilled physicians, wonderful specialists intervene at any threat of illness or discomfort; you keep ten years younger in appearance than your poorer contemporaries and twice as splendid. And above all you have an immense sense of downward perspectives, of being special and apart and above the common herd of mankind.

Now frankly Socialism will be incompatible with this patrician style. You must contemplate the end of all that. You may still be healthy, refined, free, beautifully clothed and housed; but you will  not have either the space or the service or the sense of superiority you enjoy now, under Socialism. You would have to take your place among the multitude again. Only a moiety of your property will remain to your sort of person if any revolution is achieved. The rents upon which you live, the investments that yield the income that makes the employment of that army of butlers and footmen, estate workers and underlings possible, that buys your dresses, your jewels, your motorcars, your splendid furnishings and equipments, will for the most part be public property, yielding revenue to some national or municipal treasury. You will have to give up much of that. There is no way out of it, your way to Socialism is through “the needle’s eye.” From your rare class and from your class alone does Socialism require a real material sacrifice. You must indeed give up much coarse pride. There is no help for it, you must face that if you face Socialism at all. You must come down to a simpler and, in many material aspects, less distinguished way of living.

This is so clearly evident that to any one who believes self-seeking is the ruling motive, the only possible motive in mankind, it seems incredible that your class ever will do anything than oppose to the last the advancement of Socialism. You will fight for what you have, and the Have-nots will fight to take it away. Therefore it is that the  Socialists of the Social Democratic Federation preach a class war; to my mind a lurid, violent and distasteful prospect. We shall have to get out of the miseries and disorder of to-day, they think, if not by way of chateau-burning and tumbrils, at least by a mitigated equivalent of that. But I am not of that opinion. I have a lurking belief that you are not altogether eaten up by the claims of your own magnificence. While there are no doubt a number of people in your class who would fight like rats in a corner against, let us say, the feeding of poor people’s starving children or the recovery of the land by the State to which it once belonged, I believe there is enough of nobility in your class as a whole to considerably damp their resistance. Because you have silver mirrors and silver hairbrushes, it does not follow that you have not a conscience. I am no believer in the theory that to be a sans-culotte is to be morally impeccable, or that a man loses his soul because he possesses thirty pairs of trousers beautifully folded by a valet. I cherish the belief that your very refinement will turn—I have seen it in one or two fine minds visibly turning—against the social conditions that made it possible. All this space, all this splendour has its traceable connection with the insufficiencies and miseries from which you are so remote. Once that realization comes to you the world changes. In  certain lights, correlated with that, your magnificence can look, you will discover—forgive the word!—a little vulgar….

Once you have seen that you will continue to see it. The nouveau riche of the new Plutocratic type comes thrusting among you, demonstrating that sometimes quite obtrusively. You begin by feeling sorry for his servants and then apologetic to your own. You cannot “go it” as the rich Americans and the rich South Africans, or prosperous book-makers or rich music-hall proprietors, “go it,” their silver and ivory and diamonds throw light on your own. And among other things you discover you are not nearly so dependent on the numerous men in livery, the spaces and enrichments, for your pride and comfort, as these upstart people.

I trust also to the appeal of the intervening spaces. You cannot so entirely close your world in from the greater world without that, in transit at least, the other aspects do not intrude. Every time you leave Charing Cross for the Continent, for example, there are all those horrible slums on either side of the line. These things are, you know, a part of your system, part of you; they are the reverse of that splendid fabric and no separate thing, the wide rich tapestry of your lives comes through on the other side, stitch for stitch in stunted bodies, in children’s deaths, in privation  and anger. Your grandmothers did not realize that. You do. You know. In that recognition and a certain nobility I find in you, I put my hope, much more than in any dreadful memories of 1789 and those vindictive pikes. Your class is a strangely mixed assembly of new and old, of base and fine. But through it all, in Great Britain and Western Europe generally, soaks a tradition truly aristocratic, a tradition that transcends property; you are aware, and at times uneasily aware, of duty and a sort of honour. You cannot bilk cabmen nor cheat at cards; there is something in your making forbids that as strongly as an instinct. But what if it is made clear to you (and it is being made clear to you) that the wealth you have is, all unwittingly on your part, the outcome of a colossal—if unpremeditated—social bilking?

Moreover, though Socialism does ask you to abandon much space and service, it offers you certain austere yet not altogether inadequate compensations. If you will cease to have that admirable house in Mayfair and the park in Kent and the moorlands and the Welsh castle, yet you will have another ownership of a finer kind to replace those things. For all London will be yours, a city to serve indeed, and a sense of fellowship that is, if you could but realize it, better than respect. The common people will not be common under Socialism. That is a very important thing  for you to remember. But better than those thoughts is this, that you will own yourself too, more than you do now. All that state, all that prominence of yours—do you never feel how it stands between you and life?

So I appeal from your wealth to your nobility, to help us to impoverish your class a little relatively and make all the world infinitely richer by that impoverishment. And I am sure that to some of you I shall not appeal in vain….

§ 6.

And lastly, perhaps you are chiefly a patriot and you are concerned for the flag and country with which your emotions have interwoven. You find that the Socialist talks constantly of internationalism and the World State, and that presents itself to your imagination as a very vague and colourless substitute for a warm and living reality of England or “these States” or the Empire. Well, your patriotism will have suffered a change, but I do not think it need starve under Socialist conditions. It may be that war will have ceased, but the comparison and competition and pride of communities will not have ceased. Philadelphia and Chicago, Boston and New York are at peace, in all probability for ever at peace, so far as guns and slaughter go, but each perpetually criticizes, goads and tries to outshine the other. And the civic pride and  rivalry of to-day will be nothing to that pride and rivalry when every man’s business is the city and the city’s honour and well-being is his own. You will have, therefore, first this civic patriotism, your ancient pride in your city, a city which will be like the city of the ancient Athenian’s, or the mediæval Italian’s, the centre of a system of territories and the property and chief interest of its citizens. I, for instance, should love and serve, even as I love to-day, my London and my Cinque Ports, these Home Counties about London, the great lap of the Thames valley and the Weald and Downland, my own country in which all my life has been spent; for you the city may be Ulster or Northumbria, or Wales or East or West Belgium, or Finland or Burgundy, or Berne or Berlin, or Venetia, Pekin, Calcutta, Queensland or San Francisco. And keeping the immediate peace between these vigorous giant municipal states and holding them together there will still be in many cases the old national or Imperial government and the old flag, a means of joint action between associated and kindred municipalities with a common language and a common history and a common temper and race. The nation and the national government will be the custodian of the national literature and the common law, the controller and perhaps the vehicle of intermunicipal and international trade, and an intermediary between its municipal governments and that great  Congress to which all things are making, that permanent international Congress which will be necessary to insure the peace of the world.

That, at least, is my own dream of the order that may emerge from the confusion of distrusts and tentatives and dangerous absurdities, those reactions of fear and old traditional attitudes and racial misconceptions which one speaks of as international relations to-day. For I do not believe that war is a necessary condition to human existence and progress, that it is anything more than a confusion we inherit from the less organized phases of social development. I think but a little advancement in general intelligence will make it an impossible thing.

But suppose after all that I am wrong in my estimate in this matter, and that war will still be possible in a Socialist or partly Socialist world; suppose that the Socialist State in which I am imagining you to live is threatened by some military power. Then I don’t think the military power that threatens it need threaten very long. Because consider, here will be a State organized for collective action as never a State has been organized before, a State in which every man and woman will be a willing and conscious citizen saturated with the spirit of service, in which scientific research will be at a maximum of vigour and efficiency. What individualist or autocratic militarism will stand a  chance against it? It goes quite without saying from the essential principles of Socialism that if war is necessary then every citizen will, as a matter of course, take his part in that war. It is mere want of intellectual grasp that has made a few working-class Socialists in England and France oppose military service. Universal military service, given the need for it, is innate in the Socialist idea, just as it is blankly antagonistic to the “private individual” ideas of Eighteenth-Century Liberalism. It is innate in the Socialist idea, but equally innate in that is the conception of establishing and maintaining for ever a universal peace.

About HackerNoon Book Series: We bring you the most important technical, scientific, and insightful public domain books.

This book is part of the public domain. H. G. Wells (2009). New Worlds For Old: A Plain Account of Modern Socialism. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved October 2022, from

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at, located at