ITS DEFENSE BY THOMAS WENTWORTH HIGGINSON, IN "HARPERS WEEKLY," ANALYZED AND REFUTED.
(BY THE EDITOR.)
THE "Intercollegiate Socialist Society" will not capture American universities for revolution and anarchy. Its scheme would have been impossible in any event, and it did not threaten any real danger to our social and political structure.
But that men whose names are generally accepted as standing for culture and good citizenship should be permitted deliberately to announce such a project without rebuke would have been to ignore their public challenge to patriotism. It was necessary to consider that there are people in this country who esteem at least some of the signers of the call for the formation of a society to teach Socialism as serious, disinterested, high-minded philanthropists. It may be conceded that the signers are endowed with a large share of these qualities, but with them is now revealed the added fact that in so far as they are Socialists they are opposed to the institutions of this Republic.
A multitude of letters, received from university and college presidents and professors, from ministers of the gospel and from representative men in the professions, have thanked The Review not so much for its disclosure of the real aim of the projected society, which is generally ridiculed, but for its information as to the vigorous and successful opposition of organized labor to Socialism.
That exposure has called forth another kind of response - a response of mingled consternation, evasion, and abuse. The revelation in cold type of the unequivocal and undeniable purposes of Socialism has caused a fluttering among the flock of dilettante sympathizers with the effort to "undermine all society"; to "enact a terrible retribution upon the capitalist class, comparable to the French Revolution and the Paris Commune"; to "fire the heart and nerve the arm of rebellion"; to "confiscate all the possessions of the capitalist class"; etc., etc.
It was to be expected that the signers fully committed to the creed of Socialism would respond with vicious attacks upon the article. It was a plain, straightforward exposition of the doctrines which such a society would undertake to instill into the receptive minds' of American youth, in the course of training for positions of leadership in the rising generation. It placed the signers of the call in the position of subscribing to those doctrines, since its language explicitly stated that the "undersigned" regarded the "aims and fundamental principles" of Socialism "with sympathy" and believed that "in them will ultimately be found the remedy for many far reaching economic evils."
But it is not what most of the signers may say that concerns the general public. The one man in the list whose signature was a surprise to those familiar with his standing in the literary and ethical circles of New England was Thomas Wentworth Higginson.
It is alone with his reply to a criticism in Harper's Weekly that we shall deal in this article. We reprint in full his response:
Dublin, N.H., July 14, 1905.
To the Editor of Harper's Weekly
Sir, - I observe in a recent number of your valuable journal an expression of surprise that my name should be united with others in the formation of an "Intercollegiate Socialist School" which "aims to imbue the minds of the rising generation with socialistic doctrines." This last phrase is your own, for I at least am connected with no organization for the purpose you here state. As to the names with which mine is united I am not concerned; as Theodore Parker used to say "I am not particular with whom I unite in a good action." As to the object in view it is clearly enough stated in the call itself: the movement does not aim to produce socialists, but to create students of socialism.
It is based on the obvious fact that we are more and more surrounded by institutions, such as free schools, free text books, free libraries, free bridges, free water-supplies, free lecture courses, even free universities, which were all called socialistic when first proposed, and which so able a man as Herbert Spencer denounced as socialism to his dying day. Every day makes it more important that this tendency should be studied seriously and thoughtfully, not left to demagogues alone. For this purpose our foremost universities should take the matter up scientifically, as has been done for several years at Harvard University, where there is a full course on "Methods of Social Reform - Socialism, Communism, the Single Tax." etc., given by Professor T.N. Carver. This is precisely what the "Intercollegiate Socialist School" aims at; and those who seriously criticise this object must be classed, I fear, with those medieval grammarians who wrote of an adversary "May God confound thee for thy theory of irregular verbs!"
I am, sir,
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
We regret, Mr. Higginson, to be compelled to prove that most of the statements in your letter are wholly incorrect. We shall give you credit for not knowing the facts when you wrote it. The whole scheme of the Intercollegiate Socialist School - as you should have known before you signed that call - is promoted in this country by the Collectivist Society, whose purpose is not the scientific study of Socialism, but "the spread of its propaganda among the professional classes." The scheme has its root among Socialist groups that day and night are plotting revolution in European cities, as we shall proceed to show you.
First, as to the origin and purpose in this country of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society:
Upton Sinclair, a Socialist writer, whose name appeared with that of Mr. Higginson as one of the signers of the call, recently wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Worker, an official organ of the Socialist party, with the request that it be reprinted promptly by "the rest of the party press." His letter strips all disguise from the purpose of the proposed Society:
To the Editor of The Worker:
I beg to say a few words to the comrades concerning the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, a call to which was sent out recently. The work of this Society will be the organizing of those college men and women who believe In Socialism, to aid in propaganda clubs at our colleges, to select and distribute literature, to furnish speakers, and to aid in every way the work of inducing college students to take an interest in Socialism. That this is a most important movement, capable of wide growth and usefulness, all comrades must admit.
In commenting - upon this letter, the Worker remarked:
While the majority of the students in the colleges and universities are probably children of capitalists, large and small, and while the majority of the children of capitalists are either fanatical believers in the Gospel of Getting-on or else hopeless devotees of the Senior Prom, and the Sophomore Cotillion, yet there remains a number of real men and women - young and full of energy and capable of great things - who belong of right to the Socialist movement.
Again the Worker published on August 5 a call "addressed to all those interested in the formation of an Intercollegiate Socialist Society" - addressed, therefore, to Mr. Higginson. This highly interesting document reveals that it is intended to send the original call for the formation of the Society to "the secretary of every institution of learning, with request to put on bulletin." The announcement continues:
Here is submitted an outline of the ideas of those who have been instrumental in sending out the call:
"The Society should be open to all who are or ever have been students in any American college or are engaged in educational work.
"Its purpose should be the interesting of college students and teachers in the subject of modern Socialism.
"Its methods should be the bringing together in one body of all persons interested in this work, the discussion of plans, the establishing of an agency for their prosecution.
"The forming of clubs for propaganda work In all college and high schools.
"The selection and distribution of literature suitable for college men."
In reply to this communication kindly state name and address, college and high school and year; Socialist organization of which you may be a member, dues you would feel able to pay, any work at which you could help; speaking, organization, correspondence; a list of all persons who would be interested in this plan."
(Signed) M. R. Holbrook, Secretary,
P. O. Box 1663, New York.
An application was addressed to the Secretary for information and literature. Promptly in response came several Socialist pamphlets, all issued by the Collectivist Society, and revealing that its Secretary and headquarters are the same "M. R. Holbrook, P. O. Box 1663, New York." Among the enclosures was a printed request for a contribution, with this added assurance of a secrecy quite appropriate to a conspiracy to "undermine society": "No mention, except by permission, will be made of the name of any one who writes to us." This was signed, as above stated, "The Collectivist Society," with the same address as was affixed to the "Intercollegiate" call. The identity of interests and purposes of the two organizations is thus clearly established.
As to the Socialism of the Collectivist Society, let us again quote the Worker. The recognized mouthpiece of the Debs Socialists stated the purpose of the Collectivist Society to be that of "disseminating Socialist literature among the professional classes, persons not ordinarily reached by the party propaganda, particularly. Originally a kind of Fabian society, this organization has since proclaimed Itself as frankly accepting the fundamental tenets of scientific Socialism" - a term of the cult which signifies outright revolution.
So much for the relation between the Collectivist Society and the Intercollegiate Socialist Society; so much, also, for Mr. Higginson's denial that he is connected with an organization that "aims to imbue the minds of the rising generation with Socialistic doctrines." His denial is thus brought face to face with the official announcement of the purpose of this Society: "The forming of clubs for propaganda work in all colleges and high schools;" "the organizing of those college men and women who believe in Socialism, to aid in forming propaganda clubs at our colleges."
But this proposition to hold what Mr. Higginson would have considered as a harmless academic discussion, in peaceful college class-rooms, of Free Bridges, Free Water, Single Tax, and Irregular Verbs assumes another aspect when its real origin is disclosed. This scheme was not conceived amid the tranquil shades of Cambridge nor yet at a tea-party of the Collectivist Society. It is in reality a cis-Atlantic outcropping of an ambitious international enterprise, whose purpose is to sow the seeds of Socialism in all the universities, colleges, normal schools and lecture-rooms of the world. This movement has manifested itself in the form of three international Congresses of "Socialist Students and Graduates" at Brussels, Genoa, and Paris. At the last Congress, students were present from universities in Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, Armenia, the West Indies, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Denmark, Hungary, Germany, Austria, and France. A report of this Congress in the International Socialist Review says:
"The Socialist students of the great American universities, Harvard, Columbia, Brown, and Chicago, had joined the Congress. These comrades showed great activity during several months, and even established an intercollegiate Socialist bureau. For reasons unknown to us, they could not, as expected, be directly represented."
Prof. Enrico Ferri, now of the University of Palermo. Italy, addressed the Congress upon the question of "how to bring into Socialism the greatest number of students." A recent Socialist publication describes this professor as "undoubtedly the greatest living figure in the Socialist movement," and adds the uncomfortable statement that he received, not long ago, "a sentence to sixteen months' imprisonment for a political offense, in the name of the King of Italy." His advice to the Congress may, therefore, be accepted as that of an expert in teaching Socialism both in the lecture-room and the cell. Prof. Ferri said:
"We should introduce Socialism into the students' minds as a part of science, as the logical and necessary culmination of the biological and sociological sciences. No need of making a direct propaganda which would frighten many of the listeners. Without pronouncing the word Socialism once a year I make two thirds of our students conscious Socialists. Among workingmen it Is necessary to add the Socialist conclusions to the scientific premises, because the workingman's psychology permits it, and indeed requires it; before an audience of bourgeois intellectuals, It is necessary to give the scientific premises alone, and let each mind draw its own conclusions."
This Congress made a formal call, says the International Socialist Review, "on the groups of Socialist students to make an active propaganda among normal school professors, who will, in turn, transmit their Socialist convictions to the teachers they will have to train, and who thereby may do a work of capital importance throughout the country."
A further evidence of wily strategy appears in the following resolution adopted by the Congress:
"That the best means of propagating Socialism in the universities is to organize, along with clearly Socialist circles where they are possible, neutral circles for the study of social sciences."
M. Boucher, in a report presented to the Congress in the name of the Group of Collectivist Students in Paris, invited:
"The Socialist students to enter the People's Universities, either as professors or as voluntary critics; there is, apparently, the real battle-field for the Socialist students, there is the role which is most suitable to them In the whole range of the movement; that which will excite the least antagonism, and where they will be the most useful."
The announcement was made at this Congress of the forthcoming of the Socialist Student, edited "by our Brussels comrades," and "designed as the international organ of Socialist students." Doubtless this valuable periodical would be included in the "literature" which Mr. Higginson's proposed Society would consider "suitable for college men."
Here we have, stated in detail, the program of the international organization of "Socialist Students and Graduates." This program includes precisely the insidious device of forming "neutral groups" for the study of social sciences, which Mr. Higginson would persuade himself and his perturbed friends is a wholly innocuous form of mental culture. In its systematic treachery, the plan is in thorough accordance with the Socialist plot to scuttle the ship of organized labor by "boring from within." Socialist students are to be stimulated to "enter the people's universities" for spreading their propaganda in dark and devious ways that will "excite the least antagonism," just as Socialist workingmen are urged to join the unions of their crafts, there to promote, in the phrase of one of Mr. Higginson's fellow-signers, their "insidious propaganda." Teachers are to imitate the example of Prof. Ferri, who does not "frighten" his listeners with frank, plain language; who does not whisper before timid youth the startling word "Socialism," but subtly instills into their ears all the poison of its creed of revolution.
We think that Mr. Higginson can no longer complain that the editor of Harper's Weekly overstated the case in saying that the Intercollegiate Socialist Society "aims to imbue the minds of the rising generation with Socialist doctrines."
Assuredly, Mr. Higginson can no longer plead ignorance of the facts as an excuse for his surprising association with an organization whose purposes and whose origin are utterly at variance with his distinguished record as an American soldier and patriot.