Constructive Conservatism, #3

Meantime, upon this educated democracy—alert, sensitive, receptive, plastic—another Party in the State plays unceasingly, feeding the newly aroused intellectual appetites, the highly responsive social conscience, with wide and glowing general principles—comprehensive, challenging, alluring. It is to no purpose to reply that Socialism finds its strength in appeals to cupidity, envy, and hatred. That may be true also: but it is the least part of the truth, and to emphasise it—much more, to treat it as fundamental—is entirely to misread the true appeal of Socialism. For the real strength of Socialism lies in the fact that it is making an intellectual appeal at the very moment when the craving for mental nourishment is so universal. It is presenting a “view of life” to the nation in a method admirably suited to the mood and atmosphere of the new era. The Socialist finds a welcome because he comes disguised as an educator and teacher.

And just because it is presenting a comprehensive view of life, Socialism has very greatly extended the boundaries of politics. It is, of course, easy for Socialism to draw into the traditional territory of politics the whole structure of national life, for politics in its accepted meaning deals with the actions of the State and, in the Socialist ideal, the action of the State is co-extensive with the life of the nation. This widening of the territory of politics is, indeed, a reaction of the new situation, which even in the most general survey cannot be passed by unnoticed.

The battles between Whig and Tory, Unionist and Liberal, were, like those of an earlier stage of armed warfare, fought on a narrow front and by small armies of professionals, whose passage through the life of the nation affected it hardly more than a charabanc disturbs the countryside to-day—some vapour and much noise, a rut left in the highway, a film of dust on the hedgerow.

But Socialism fights on the broadest of fronts, and this breadth of front must dominate the strategy and tactics of the new era; for envelopment and the crushing defeat which successful envelopment achieves form the danger against which Conservatism must guard in the great battles ahead.

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