G.K. Chesterton’s Socialist Friend: Robert Blatchford
Posted on: 02/24/2020 04:19 PM

Chesterton..."was not at all hesitant to state that he knew something else. He knew that “Mr. Blatchford’s (socialist) philosophy will never be endured among sane men.”



Today’s enthusiasts for a socialist America will not be likely to know the name of Robert Blatchford or his story. If they did, they might think twice about their current enthusiasm.

To start that thinking process, here are a few details. Blatchford was an Englishman, a friend and debating partner of G.K. Chesterton, and an early enthusiast for socialism. Born in 1851, he was a generation older than Chesterton. Still, both were thinking and writing at a time when it was quite understandable why any Englishman might be an enthusiast for socialism. The industrial revolution was in full sway, industriously creating great wealth and great havoc. Some of that havoc depopulated the English countryside and concentrated factory workers and their families in urban slums.

To combat this havoc, Blatchford founded a weekly socialist newspaper, the Clarion, in 1891. In its pages, he promoted not just socialism, but atheism and eugenics, as well as feminism and imperialism (he favored the Boer War.) Despite his decided views, he occasionally made room in his pages for his opponents.


G.K. Chesterton’s Socialist Friend: Robert Blatchford


One such occasion followed his 1903 publication of God and My Neighbour, which was a collection of his Clarion columns. In brief, the book detailed his objections to one faith and advocacy of another. The first was Christianity and the second was socialism.

After the book was published, he invited his critics to respond, promising that he would publish three of the best anti-Blatchfordian essays every week for six months. By following through on that promise, Robert Blatchford demonstrated that he was also an enthusiast for the free and free-wheeling interchange of ideas, as well as an advocate of the kind of diversity which matters most, namely intellectual diversity.

A few of these anti-Blatchfordian pieces were written by a thirty-year-old near-nobody by the name of Gilbert Keith Chesterton. The best of his contributions to this ongoing debate was titled “The Eternal Heroism of the Slums.” More on it shortly.

First, it’s time for a few cheers. ...

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