A FORCE, and a rapidly growing one, which stoutly challenges popular interest as against the Church, is Socialism. Socialism purposes to secure its end by political methods. It is, therefore, essentially a political movement. As such, up to the present time, it has secured far greater volume and momentum in Europe than in America. It has been represented in the German Parliament for about forty-five years, but in all other countries it does not date back at farthest beyond twenty-five years. In the United States it entered the field as a distinct political movement in 1892, polling at that election 21,164 votes. In 1912 the party cast 900,672 votes.
In 1867 the socialistic votes of the world did not exceed 30,000. To-day the socialistic vote of the world exceeds 10,000,000. The movement now commands recognition in the public life of at least twenty-six nations. It presents one of the most compact and well systematized organisms known to the modern world. In every nation in which it is organized its party roll is made up on the basis of dues-paying, active and permanent membership. The national organizations not only have their State conventions as often as may seem required, but in every three years there is held an Inter-national Congress for joint deliberation and action.
An International Socialist Bureau composed of all national parties, meeting periodically, transacts its business through a local executive committee and a permanent secretary. It is the boast of this organization that it can mobilize a larger force than any single government in the world.
Nearly all the organized armies of labor the trade-unionists, the cooperative movements, and others, numbering in all many millions are lined up behind Socialism, "acting in accord with it on all questions of great public importance." It is of interest to note that in the United States alone there are now more than three hundred publications issued distinctively in the interests of Socialism. Five of these are daily news-papers, ten are monthly magazines, and the rest are weeklies. While most of these are issued in English, yet publications appear wherever a foreign language is much in vogue in the country. The above facts, for which I acknowledge a principal indebtedness to Mr. Morris Hillquit, a recognized authority on the subject, will for our purpose sufficiently represent the trend of Socialistic growth. It is a movement to which by no means can either the Christian or political forecaster afford indifference.
For definement of what Socialism really means, I quote what is probably Mr. Hillquit's most recent utterance on the subject:
As a practical movement Socialism stands primarily for industrial readjustment. It seeks to secure greater planfulness in the production of wealth and greater equity in its distribution. Concretely stated, the Socialist program agitates a reorganization of the existing industrial system on the basis of collective or national ownership of the social tools.
It demands that the control of the machinery of wealth-creation be taken from the individual capitalist and placed in the hands of the nation, to be organized and operated for the benefit of the whole people. The program calls for radical changes in the existing industrial machinery, political structure, and social relations. The form of society which would result from such changes is usually designated in the literature on the subject as the social state, or the Socialist ideal.
From a comparison of numerous definitions, the above, I judge, is as representative and accurate a statement of the basic philosophy of Socialism as can be found in so brief compass.
It must be promptly admitted that the Socialist creed amplified gives expression to many nobly humane, and even Christian, ideals. Socialism is opposed to war in, all forms, national or industrial. Its apostles claim that within very recent years it has prevented the occurrence of more than one international war. At the outbreak of the Italian-Turkish war the prime minister of Turkey officially submitted a memorial to the International Socialist Bureau, at Brussels, asking for the intervention of the Socialists in behalf of his outraged country.
Socialism would abrogate all industrial strife by removing its causes. It proceeds upon the unyielding assumption that in the existing order, and inevitably so, capitalism and labor are aligned against each other as two separate and irreconcilably antagonistic forces. That in this irrepressible conflict capitalism, by reason of controlling the appliances and tools of profit-making, has labor at an immense disadvantage.
The industries of our country are rapidly concentrating in the hands of an ever-diminishing number of powerful financial concerns. The trusts, monopolies, and gigantic industrial combinations are coming to be ruling factors in the life of the nation, industrial, political, and spiritual, and the masses of the people are sinking into a condition of ever-greater dependence. The number of propertyless wage-earners is on the increase; their material existence is growing more and more pre-carious, and the spirit of dissatisfaction and revolt is developing among them. The relations between the classes of producers and the employing classes are marked by intense, though not always conscious, class-antagonism and by overt class struggles.... There is no more harmony between privately owned capital and wage-earning labor than there is between wolf and lamb.
The conditions of conflict as set forth in the above are universally assumed by Socialists as dire facts in our present civilization. Socialism would do away with these conditions by making impossible the private ownership of the appliances and tools of profit-making industries. It would hasten the day when all large private fortunes would be done away with. Just the process by which this should be effected is not altogether clear, even from socialistic utterances. It might be inferred that some Socialists think the evil of private fortunes should be eliminated by one bold act of government confiscation, transferring these fortunes at once to national control for the common good. By others it is advocated that a large tax should be levied against these estates year by year, effecting their early absorption into the public treasury. Still others advocate the purchase by the State of all corporate and private properties of a wealth-producing character.
In any event, it is not proposed in the socialistic state that there shall exist large private fortunes. Either by taxation, or by some system of government limitation, it will be secured that all citizens will stand on a plane of equality in possession of the fruits of wealth-producing factors.
The socialistic scheme proposes many humane factors. It suggests the adequate care of the sick in hospitals or in the home, institutions in which the incompetent, unfortunates, and the helpless shall be amply cared for, and it calls for old-age pensions. It pledges itself to bestow upon every productive man, woman, and child an adequate living income. It suggests special support for mothers, so that they may meet the expenses of them-selves and children independently of husband or father.
It promises art galleries, parks, public baths, cheap transportation, and all sorts of attractions and utilities to meet the common tastes and needs. It proposes a democracy of education for the childhood and youth of the nation. It purposes shortened hours of labor, and large margins of leisure for all workers. It believes that by bringing to the common life conditions of material sufficiency and comfort it will thereby greatly reduce the evils of intemperance and prostitution. Socialism has a mightily optimistic faith in itself. It promises every material good which may seem essential to human welfare.
It must be confessed that for the poor and toiling masses who confide in its gospel Socialism presents a program of great attractiveness. Not even the gospel of Christ proposes at first hand any such material paradise as that which Socialism pledges. And it may be emphasized that much of what is promised is, from the standpoint of Christian idealism, of a highly approvable and valuable order.
But now, having sought fairly to state the positions of Socialism, and having conceded full approval of, and sympathy with, many of its ideals, I still must judge Socialism at best as a veritable Utopia. It is an iridescent and delusive dream. It has been well named the "great illusion." Its whole scheme presents one maze of impracticabilities.
Consider, for instance, the socialistic scheme of property. All profit-making appliances and tools are to belong to the state, and by the state are to be administered for the common good. Just how far in the socialistic state private ownership of material value is to be permissible is not clear. But if individuals are entitled to ownership in such measure as may be purchased from the thriftily saved surplus of their own earnings, it is evident that values so secured will by so much be in addition to, and distinct from, property controlled and administered by the state. By so much, private property, while it may be taxed for state purposes, will not be directly under state administration. It is thus clear that there will be a certain margin of property, the proceeds of which will not be administered by the state for the common good.
Now, let us suppose that the wealth, public and private, of the United States amounts to $140,000,000,000. This is probably an outside estimate. We have ninety-five millions of inhabitants. If the entire property of the nation were distributed equally, there would be for each individual a value of something less than $1,475. Differently stated, if the government were administrator, it would have for taking care of every man, woman, and child, a capital approaching $1,475 per person. On the supposition that all this capital had an earning capacity of five per cent, the income that could be allotted for each person would be less than $74 per year. This certainly would not mean wealth for the individual.
But, as a matter of fact, a vast proportion of this wealth could not be made to yield any direct income, so that there would be available far less than $74 per capita. Evidently, the citizenship of the socialistic state could neither be made up of private capitalists nor idlers. There would not be available wealth to permit a citizenship of capitalists. The limitation of capital would compel a nation of laborers. Only labor could produce the necessities of life for a people so placed. I understand clearly that it inheres in the socialistic philosophy that all able-bodied citizens shall be producers laborers. To the question, "What will you do with the work shy and the lazy ?" the answer of the plain Socialist was, "Shoot them." Socialism in this respect agrees with the precepts of the New Testament, "If a man will not work, neither let him eat." But on the theory of all wealth-producing agencies being administered by the nation for the common good, one wonders whether the abundant leisure which socialistic writers promise to labor amounts to anything more than a delusive dream.
Under existing conditions, there is a vast amount of capital so invested as to be susceptible neither of division nor income for the common good. A multitude of private and costly homes could be cited as illustrative of this truth. Indeed, under the present order, an order which has come through a long process of evolution, very many of the products of invested capital do not at all lend themselves to the socialistic state. If popular suffrage should overwhelmingly place the national government in the hands of Socialists, not much imagination is required to foresee that to adjust existing conditions to the socialistic ideal would prove for the socialistic statesman a most bewildering and chaotic task. Socialism, in the light of its most perfected theoretical development, is, as applied to the state, an untried theory. It is perfectly safe to assume that Socialism has thus far furnished no rational or conclusive demonstration of its fitness as a supreme modus for the state.
If wealth-producing factors are to be under state direction, it is evident that labor must also be under the same direction. This must necessitate the distribution of labor also as a matter of state control. Labor must be distributed to the points where required work can best be done. It is not easy under such a theory to escape the suggestion of at least a quasi-military direction which shall practically assign to whole armies of men not only location of both their work and hours, but as well the very kind of work which they shall be permitted to do. It seems self-evident that under such a system, no more than under existing conditions, could labor escape the domination of the boss. Work, especially the kind of work which would be required for the collective interests of the state, would not be spontaneously performed. It would have to be done under the direction of authority and leadership.
Such work might be under the supervision of duly appointed commissions. But under whatever method, it would be tantamount to the same old regime of director and directed, of master and servant, of overseer and toiler. There is inevitable in the situation a grim suggestion of the unescapable thralldom of labor under some kind of mastership.
The socialistic visionaries are not sufficiently reckoning with the facts of human nature. The most plausible elaborations of Socialism more than suggest that the same kind of rivalries, dissensions, and discontents will continue to exist which under the present social and industrial structures work disorder and disaster. The practical inauguration of Socialism would not only work sore disillusion to its promoters, but it would bring perilous, if not incurable, chaos to the normal order of society.
It may be admitted that many departments of purely public service might be successfully administered under socialistic ideals. The postal systems, railroads, telegraph and telephone service, water, gas, and electric supplies, police service, the common highways, and very many other agencies which are organized purely in the interests of public needs these might all conceivably be managed under some system of governmental commissions. But from a high social and moral standpoint, the finest and most valuable possessions for many lives are of a character which can neither be secured nor regulated by any public supervision.
The selection of a wife, the choice of one's calling, the encouragement and development of art, poetry, the identification and direction in the young for effectiveness in literature, science, and invention, the assurance of the adequate creation and endowment of institutions for research and the advancement of knowledge all this, and vastly more, the very factors which give embellishment and value to civilization itself, might just as well be left with a police system, as to the regulation of a public commission under a socialistic state. Personal liberty so exercised as not to interfere with the common rights of others, should be treated as a thing of inalienable and invincible right.
The very genius of the socialistic state is at many vital points not only repressive of individual liberty, but it indicates no scope or opportunity for the development of the exceptional individuality. The development of exceptional personalities calls for exceptional conditions. The guarantee of such conditions nowhere appears in the socialistic program. The vision of Socialism itself does not have its genesis in views which have intelligently or sympathetically embraced the highest refinements of civilization. The promoters of Socialism have been largely absorbed in trying to invent a system which will yield to all classes, irrespective of social or intellectual rank, abundant bread, comfortable shelter, and a generous leisure. The importance of these aims should not be underestimated. But they only partially, and meagerly, represent life's values. Man is not to live by bread alone. Nor does his life consist in the abundance of material possessions. Life is something more than meat, more than raiment.
The prophets of Socialism who are promising a material paradise for the world's toilers seem of limited vision. They have no seerlike grasp upon, they give no sufficient emphasis to, either the attainments, the possibilities of, or the provisional needs for, the cultural life of humanity. Their scheme, measured at its largest and interpreted at its best, falls woefully short of providing adequate nurture for the social, intellectual, artistic, and moral wants of human society. It is not necessary to charge other than entire good faith to the prophets of Socialism as they make their optimistic pledges to the world. But the possibility of their making good these pledges is to be judged in the light of general experience, and on the observed principles of human conduct. The promises may be uttered with all the emphasis of sincerity, but, tested by the world's larger needs, they are likely to prove as elusive as the voice of a siren.
Private wealth, and in generous amounts, will be requisite to initiate and to endow the needed agencies of human culture. Legislative committees, senates and congresses are proverbially perfunctory and tardy in authorizing grants for the public benefit. Their most commendable benefactions are usually those of compromise, shaped by concessions made in order to secure a majority support to the authorizing measure. The private owner, or a combination of private owners like-minded, having clear vision and philanthropic purposes, will always be needed to pioneer the way for, and to lay the foundations of, such cultural institutions as will ever be demanded by the world's growing ideals.
To depend upon legislative commissions to take the initiative in providing for such institutions would be like tying the world's advancement to the wheelless and dragging chariots of the Egyptians. This is not to declare either the desirability or the legitimacy of inordinate private fortunes. There is something inherently wrong in an industrial condition which will permit one man on the avenue to be the possessor of $400,000,000, while a million men, within a few miles of his palatial residence, are in daily struggle for bread to feed their hunger.
Let there by all means be a system of taxation, drastic if needs be, which shall make it forever hereafter impossible for any person to amass so large a private fortune. But between this condition, on the one hand, and the demands of Socialism upon the other, there would be little to choose. It is not easy to find terms by which fittingly to characterize the evils of monopolistic and selfish wealth. It is also true that the socialistic philosophy has not yet furnished demonstration of its ability to meet more than the merest segment of human needs.
Essential inequity inheres fundamentally in the socialistic scheme. Socialism is so absorbed in looking after the needs of the under-man, its entire interest is so confined to this man, that thus far it has theoretically failed to suggest due provision for those who are not under-men. It fails in promise of due incentive for action, or suitable reward for achievement, for those who under the present order of society and industry are proving themselves exceptional benefactors. Per-sons have lived, and others will live, who at large sacrifice of ordinary comforts have wrought out inventions which have proved of inestimable value to entire civilizations. Here is a man who in personal poverty and with incredible toil makes a scientific discovery by which the knowledge of mankind is greatly enriched. Copernicus, Newton, and Darwin, in a hand-to-hand struggle with nature's mysteries, gave to the world a new learning.
The modern sciences, sciences which are dissipating ignorance, destroying superstition, flooding nature's dark places with light, giving to man a vast new knowledge of himself, yielding for the exploration of human thought a new universe of ever-growing wonders all these are the creations largely of lone toilers in cloister, laboratory, or in some open field of nature.
What incentive does Socialism thus far offer for such high pursuits? What commensurate rewards is it prepared to bestow upon men of exceptional brain and genius, men without whom, as all history bears testimony, the race will make no material, intellectual, or moral progress. And if some enthusiastic socialistic writer should pledge most ample rewards for such workers, what hostages can he furnish in assuring the fulfillment of his pledge? Let Socialism with its materialistic ideals prevail, and the very inventive and inspirational men, men who are the real initiators in all progress, would be under the handicap of an unsympathetic and obstructive regime.
But aside from consideration of exceptional and constructive talent, the socialistic philosophy does not give fair encouragement to the virtues of ordinary thrift. Here are two laborers of equal opportunity, and in general with equal demands upon their abilities. The one is industrious, temperate, frugal. He practices the creed of plain living and high thinking. He is conscientious in discharge of his daily duties, reads good books, makes for himself a bank account, and earns a position of respect and influence among men. The other man is a free liver. He is a spendthrift, reckless of his personal reputation and influence. He is a patron of the saloon, and the higher interests of his own family are sacrificed to his vicious courses of living. Now, Socialism, as a governmental scheme, treats both these men alike. They are to have equal opportunities and equal rewards. Socialism as a theory is not adjustive to the social and moral deserts or ill deserts of individuals. Its very basic and central philosophy precludes it from dealing with society on the plane of moral values. But to put two men of diverse habits, as indicated, on the plane of equality is a moral absurdity. The one de-serves well of society and is clearly entitled to the benefits of his material thrift. The other has forfeited the respect of his fellowmen, and, if he is a material bankrupt, for this condition he has no one to blame but himself. Sane moral reason can by no possibility put these men on a par. They are wide apart, both in their personal characters and merits.
Socialism at best is but theoretical. It has no fixed thought-status. Its boldest position has time and again been driven into retreat under critical fire. Mr. H. G. Wells, in The Great State, a book which gives varied elaboration of the socialistic ideals, says, frankly :
The final form which Socialism may take cannot as yet be set down. Its problems have not yet been clearly stated. The adjustments which are required cannot be foreseen. Its economics demand a reconsideration. The difficulties of its administration and government, and especially the terrifying number of its army of officials, are riddles without answer from any quarter. All that can be said is that the goal is a state where every one shall be well fed, well housed, well played, and as happy as men can be made who must face the unescapable sternness of life.
Mr. Hillquit in one of his latest interviews says :
There is nothing sacred in the writings even of the founders of the modem Socialist philosophy. Some of the economic doctrines of Ferdinand Lassalle, and many cardinal planks of his practical program, have been unable to withstand the test of experience and criticism, and have been discarded by the Socialist movement. Some of the expressed views of Marx and Engels have been modified by their Socialist followers, and generally the Socialist movement is constantly engaged in revising its creed as well as its tactics. Socialism is a modern, progressive movement engaged in practical, everyday struggles, and it cannot escape the influence of changing social conditions or growing economic knowledge. The International Socialist Movement is still Marxian, because the fundamental social and economic doctrines of Karl Marx, his collaborators and disciples, still hold good in the eyes of the vast majority of Socialists; but in the details of its methods and modes of action the Socialist movement today is quite different from what it was in the days of Marx.
Socialism proposes a radical change of the world's industrial order, a change which will most drastically affect all the social conditions of existing civilizations. The end it seeks in this stupendous program is to elevate all the poor to a plane of plenteous living. It proposes a task in itself of immeasurable difficulty, yet frankly acknowledging that it does not clearly see the methods by which it is to be done, much less does it have any definite forecast of the momentous consequences of weal or disaster which must ensue upon this world-change. The magnitude of the proposition is equaled only by its audacity. It is like inviting the human family to embark on an untried ship, upon an uncharted sea. Upon the quarter-deck there is no experienced admiral, and beyond the stormy outlook there is no definite haven of safety, no assured lands of plenty and peace.
From a Christian viewpoint, the final word to be said about Socialism is that it is materialistic in its philosophy. It is fatally lacking in the incentive and transforming power of high moral and spiritual ideals. It must be admitted that in the physical betterments which it proposes for society there is great theoretical allurement. It were, indeed, a consummation devoutly to be wished, if from the common bounty every table could be supplied with wholesome food, and to all children could be offered warm clothing and a high nurture of the schools. But in proposing all this Socialism has been absolutely blind to the imperative needs of the moral and spiritual in men, needs which if left unmet will leave civilization in the condition of the old Roman world as described by Arnold :
On that hard pagan world disgust
Ramsey Macdonald says : "Socialism has no more to do with a man's religion than it has to do with the color of his hair. Socialism deals with secular things, not with ultimate beliefs." Keir Hardie, in his Serfdom to Socialism, says : "It cannot be too emphatically stated that Socialism takes no more cognizance of the religious opinions of its adherents than does either Liberalism or Conservatism."
Mr. Hillquit in his famous debate with Professor John A. Ryan on "Socialism : A Promise or a Menace?"
says: "Socialism, on the one hand, demands the complete separation of state and church, and, on the other, it stands for absolute religious liberty. These two fundamental principles determine the attitude which the Socialist state must take on religion and worship. It is safe to predict that a Socialist administration will confer no special rights, privileges, or exemptions on the Church, nor will it give it official sanction or recognition. On the other hand, it will not interfere in the slightest degree with its existence, teachings, and practices." This, while ostensibly plausible, is in itself a betrayal of an utterly agnostic, and either an unfriendly or a blind, attitude on the part of Socialism toward the fundamental spiritual character and needs of human nature.
If man, as the sane world has quite universally believed, is primarily a spiritual being, and as such is a citizen of a moral order of the universe divinely ordained, then, a state "which will confer no special rights, privileges, or exemptions on the Church" (religion, worship), "nor will give it official sanction or recognition" such a state, from a Christian standpoint, would stand as a monstrosity in civilization. A civilization which would fail in recognition of duty to provide for the allaround education and culture of the moral life of its people would be a civilization self-arrayed against the moral order of the universe.
As an interesting symptom of the trend of socialistic philosophy, it is suggestive that Mr. William English Walling, himself a literary authority on the subject, has just published a book in which he deals with the ethical aspects of Socialism. He exalts Socialism to the rank of the exclusive religion. And this is really what multitudes of the less thoughtful subjects of the movement are doing. Mr. Walling's socialistic predictions call for the final disappearance of the individual family home, a communistic home being substituted in its place. With the disappearing of the home will go the old relation of the sexes, and the defenses of the old morality. He says, "The overwhelming majority of Socialists in all countries where Socialism has become an important factor in society" believe "that all we know by the name of religion is likely to disappear with-out any violent attack."
A man in Mr. Hillquit's position may naturally shrink from publicly conceding that Socialism as a movement is infiltrated through and through with an animus hostile to Christianity. But the fact is too much in the open. It cannot be disguised. The dominating minds of Socialism are overwhelmingly anti-Christian. And, as Professor Ryan sanely suggests, "What is of serious consequence is the fact that the Socialist movement of to-day is an active and far-reaching influence for the spread of irreligion among large sections of the population in many countries."
The above testimony, I judge, is quite representative of the general attitude of the socialistic cult toward religious and spiritual questions. As a creed Socialism lays much stress upon conditions of life which shall be free from physical hardships. In this creed animal comfort is a sine qua non. It may be questioned whether this very view is not a heresy of the first rank. God has nowhere indicated that physical ease has any very important place in his scheme of moral development for the race. Labor is God's appointed mint from which alone can be coined the highest attainments of character, the noblest achievements of service. Toil of both hand and brain is a necessity to the best development of the individual and to the highest. welfare of society. Labor, so far from being a curse, is well-nigh God's one condition, and will always remain so, to the highest reach of soul. Masterful faculty, faculty which shall sway wide forces, must develop the thews of victory in surmounting obstacles and capturing achievements on toilsome pathways. All great, useful and lasting structures of society represent toil the combined energies of capital, of brain, and of brawn. The builders of great philosophies, and of great faiths, are men who have not primarily concerned themselves much about physical ease, but, rather, men who have studied to secure for themselves power for greater toil. No philosophy can change the essential nature of things. The constitution of the world and the conditions of human society are such as to require a working race.
In the world's work there will always be grades of needed work, some of which will not be in themselves as congenial as other grades. It is not easy to see how some men are to escape doing some work which does not itself appeal to highest taste. The city needs scavengers as surely as it needs magistrates. The ashes and garbage of homes must be disposed of, and the sewers cared for. The most ideal socialistic community must, in these respects, be much as a fine ocean steamship. However elegant the people, apartments, and furnishings above deck, the thing cannot be navigated except at the expense of coal stokers who, far down below, and stripped to their waists, work in an atmosphere of stiffing heat and grime. And how much will Socialism be able to do to make ideal or easy the life of society's coal stokers?
Socialism is yet far from the elaboration of adjustments which will inevitably be required from essential inequalities in human ability. God's endowments of men range all the way from genius down to the most ordinary of one-talented men. These varying grades by a-fundamental law of nature, a law which acts of legislation will have little power to modify, must inevitably in the world's work find spheres for which their abilities specially ordain them.
The limitation of Socialism is that it deals in mere externals. Its ideals are almost entirely materialistic. It assumes that if you surround men with the best material environment, you thereby secure to them the highest welfare and happiness. Now, all this may be immeasurably far from the truth. It is not the touch of outward environment, however important this may be, but motives dominating the soul which give highest value to character. Some men in spite of poor environment conduct themselves in a spirit so wise, temperate, and virtuous, that they are happy and noble even in comparative poverty. Others, in command of all material good, are so slaves of excess as to make themselves objects of physical and moral loathing.
Wealth, in multitudes of cases, has ministered only to the bane and destruction of its possessors. In this wealthiest of countries, we are tragically reminded that wealth alone is no guarantee for nobility of manhood, that it gives no surety of the inviolable character of the marriage altar, nor of domestic purity and happiness within its palaces. Wealth but too often panders to the perversion and debasement of all that is noblest in human ideals.
Neither Socialism, nor any other human system, can secure anything like equal happiness to men of antipodal habits of action and character. One of the worst arraignments to be made against Socialism is that by its very premises it robs genius of incentive, and promises an unearned contentment to the aimless and slothful.
Socialism, as Christianity, makes its appeal to those who toil. But Socialism is not a religion. It is, and can be, no substitute for the gospel of Him who said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."
( Originally Published 1914 )
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The Church And The Poor
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