Sunday, December 17, 2017

Edward Bellamy's Socialist Plan to Use Theology and Economics, 1892 or 2017?

Edward Bellamy, ca. 1889
One of the pioneers and leaders of Socialism in the United States was Edward Bellamy (1850-1898).  He described his particular brand of Socialism as "Nationalism" - based on the idea of nationalizing all industry.  He felt it had a more patriotic sound than "Socialism" (his cousin Francis Bellamy, also a Socialist, was the author of the Pledge of Allegiance).

His philosophy was inscribed in his greatest literary work, an 1888 novel entitled Looking Backward 2000-1887. It is a remarkable science fiction novel that envisioned and described a Socialist Utopia in America by the year 2000 - as well as how it happened.  Looking Backward became one of America's best selling and most influential works of fiction of all time, and was a favorite of many American intellectuals, including John Dewey, one of the fathers of modern Progressive education.  The book spawned "Bellamy Clubs" or "Nationalist Clubs" throughout America.

In 1892, Bellamy's paper "Progress of Nationalism in the United States" was published by The North American Review (June 1892).  The complete essay can be found here.

There are a couple passages from the paper that lay out a plan for the preacher's pulpit and the professor's lectern in the service of Bellamy's brand of Nationalism-Socialism. Both seem to have come to pass in our own day.

The Clergy:

It is unnecessary, surely, to do more than call attention to the great moral awakening upon the subject of social responsibilities and the ethical side, or rather the ethical soul and centre, of the industrial question, which has taken place within a very recent time. It was but yesterday that the pulpit was dumb on this class of themes, dumb because its hearers were deaf. Now, every Sunday hundreds of pulpits throughout the land are preaching social duty and the solidarity of nations and of humanity; declaring the duty of mutual love and service, whereby the strong are made bondmen to the weak, to be the only key to the social problem. This is the very soul of Nationalism. To be able to present this theme effectively has become the best passport of the clergyman to popular success, the secret of full houses. One of the most hopeful features of the Nationalist outlook from the first has been the heartiness with which a large contingent of the clergy has enlisted in it, claiming that it was, as it truly is, nothing more than Christianity applied to industrial organization. This we hope to make so apparent that erelong all Christian men shall be obliged either to abjure Christ or come with us. (emphasis added)

The Economics Faculty

Economic discussion and the debate of radical social solutions absorb the attention of the country, and are the preponderating topics of serious conversations. Economic papers have the precedence in our periodicals, and, even in the purely literary magazine, they crowd the novel and the romance. Indeed, the novel with a sociological motive now sets the literary fashion, and a course in political economy has become necessary to write a successful love story.

It is not so much the increased volume of economic discussion that marks the social growth of Nationalism as the fact that its tone is chiefly given by the adherents of the new and humane schools of political economy which, until recently, had obtained but little hearing among us. Up to within a very few years the old school of political economy, although it had long before begun to fall into discredit in Europe, still held practically undisputed sway in America. To-day the new school, with its socialistic method and sympathies, is the school to which nearly all the young and rising professors of political economy belong. The definition of labor as "a commodity," would now endanger the position of an instructor in that science in any institution of learning which did not depend for its patronage upon a reputation for being behind the times. There are a few such yet despite the growth of Nationalism. (emphasis added)

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