The Socialism of
Slightly revised from a shorthand report of a lecture delivered at the Seamore Picture House, Glasgow, October 25th, 1915.
My Subject to-night is "The Socialism of William Morris." in dealing with this subject, I may say a few things that will come as a surprise to many orthodox Socialists who may be present, and to strangers who know nothing about Socialism or the movement. What I shall say will not be from the standpoint of wishing to shock people, but from that of educating them. If what I say seems a little strange or now, therefore, my hearers should remember that, from time to time, we come up against facts and ideals which are strange. The strange, however, is not to be resented necessarily. The strange may gradually enlighten and so change forms and ideas.
William Morris is appreciated greatly in the world of Capitalist culture. That is to say, he is spoken and is written about a great deal. While there is quite a number of people who have much evil to urge against Socialism, there is a vast number who have nothing but good to say about William Morris. That is not because Morris was good. It is purely a custom to speak well of William Morris in order to be regarded as occupying a certain position in the world of arts and letters. William Morris possessed a certain amount of self-confidence, and by virtue of the confidence, and his money, he forced the world to recognize his mastership in the fine arts.
In our religious institutions, folk talk about Jesus Christ, meaning the myth; but there is not a single parson who knows or cares about Jesus the man, his type, or his class among the ministers who are preaching in Glasgow to-night. They talk and pray, because it is the custom to do so.
When people talk of literature, discuss authors and poets, they most frequently are not concerned with understanding the poets or authors, but are taken up entirely with getting an easy position. By flattering some recognized institution in literature, they hope to be recognized as litterateurs.
That is the position of William Morris. That is why you find critics in the arts praising him, not because of his Socialism, but trying to praising him in spite of his Socialism, by pretending that art is a very important thing itself and something that has no place in Socialism. They do not realize that art and literature can have no reality without Socialism: that all culture is devoid of meaning, is sham and hypocrisy, unless you come down to the fundamental economic question.
William Morris was born in 1834. more or less that was an eventful period in British history. The year 1834 was the beginning of the present constitutional regime in Britain. It saw