Jessie Fothergill.

The Encyclopædia Britannica : a dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information (Volume 32) online

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used, and has been used increasingly in recent years, in a number
of different and frequently overlapping senses. It has changed
its meaning with time: but the changes have not served to clarify
it, but rather to increase the number of different senses in which
the term is used.

It would be well to begin by ruling altogether out from the
scope of this article certain popular uses of the term whieh have
been current especially during the past generation. The well-
known phrase, " We are all Socialists now," and the constant
references to " socialistic legislation," only serve to obscure the
real meanings which attach to the word. When it is said that,
" We are all Socialists now," all that is meant is that everybody
nowadays is prepared to agree that a greater measure of govern-
mental intervention both in industry and in the affairs of society
generally is necessary than was currently regarded as necessary
or even possible 100 years ago.

The phrase " socialistic legislation " again is frequently used
to cover almost any extension of governmental activity in the
sphere either of industry or of provision under the State or under
local government auspices for the needs of the people. The
phrase " socialistic taxation " is used, with a greater approxima-
tion to accuracy, in reference to those forms of taxation which
aim not merely at producing revenue for the public authorities,
but at bringing about an actual readjustment in the distribution
of income in the community, arrived at by the unregulated opera-
tion of capitalist economic forces. Again, almost any extension
in the sphere of local government action, such as the taking over
of a tramway system or the establishment of banking or insur-
ance facilities by a local authority, is frequently referred to as



" municipal socialism," even if the public body which inaugu-
rates this policy does not consist of members who profess any
allegiance to, or have any sympathy with, the doctrines of any
Socialist party or group. All these and similar uses of the word
" Socialism " are here ruled out of consideration.

The word " Socialism " first came into use in the third or fourth
decade of the ipth century in England and France. The first-
known literary reference to it occurs in the " Poor Man's Guar-
dian " in 1833; but it is believed that the word was occasionally
used at an earlier date in both France and England. In Great
Britain it was most frequently used during the first half of the
1 9th century in reference to the doctrines associated with the
name of Robert Owen and his disciples, and to the theories of the
anti-capitalist economists, such as W. Thompson, who were
largely affected by Owenite teaching. In France the name simi-
larly attached itself to the doctrines of thinkers of whom the most
important were followers of St. Simon and Fourier. Its use then
spread much more rapidly on the continent of Europe than in
Great Britain, and it was mainly in connexion with the growth of
continental Socialist movements (Louis Blanc in 1848; the First
International Working Men's Association in the 'sixties and the
Paris Commune of 1871) that it was used by English writers,
until it was reimported into Great Britain as the name applied to
a constructive body of doctrines in the early 'eighties, especially
under the auspices of H. M. Hyndman and the Democratic
Federation (subsequently the Social Democrat Federation).

It is important to realize that in all its modern meanings the
word " Socialism " refers definitely to doctrines and movements
which owe their rise to the growth of large-scale production and
the capitalist system in industry. It is, indeed, sometimes ap-
plied to theories and Utopian speculations, such as those of Sir
Thomas More, which have no direct reference to any particular
stage of social evolution and are merely attempts to outline the
structure of an ideal commonwealth. But, although such Uto-
pias as those of Plato and More may present features of resem-
blance to the doctrines of modern Socialism, there is no real
connexion between these and the theories or attitudes towards
property which are .sometimes comprehended under the terms
" mediaeval Socialism " and " mediaeval Communism." Social-
ism, as a body of doctrine and as a movement applicable to
modern conditions and these are the senses of the term which
matter to the student made its appearance when the changes
in methods of production and transport, which are usually de-
scribed as the " Industrial Revolution," had created the modern
working class or " proletariat," and had caused this class to
make the attempt to organize for common protection against the
the evil effects of new industrial conditions.

Modern Socialism, although it has claimed many adherents
belonging to other classes, is thus essentially a working-class or
" proletarian " movement, in that it is based upon and directly
due to the rise of the " proletariat " as a distinct social class capa-
ble of independent class organization and suffering under a sense
of injustice and inhibition. The Socialism of the Owenite period
serves in certain respects very clearly to reveal this essential
character of the movement. Owen himself has indeed been de-
scribed by subsequent social thinkers by Marx, for example
as a " Utopian" Socialist; but the rise of the Owenite move-
ment is very clearly and directly traceable to the actual eco-
nomic conditions of the early igth century. It was out of his
experience as a factory manager and owner at New Lanark and
elsewhere that Owen developed his Socialist doctrines; and, in
the minds of most of his followers even more than Owen him-
self, these doctrines possessed always a close and definite rela-
tion to the rise of the working class to social consciousness and
to the possibility of social power. Thus, while Owen was ex-
pounding his doctrine of ideal Cooperative or Socialist commu-
nities, and endeavouring to demonstrate by practical experiment
possibilities of achieving Socialism by the foundation of such
communities in the midst of a rapidly developing capitalist en-
vironment, many of those who were most affected by his doc-
trines were engaged either, as economists, in developing their
critique of the current economic theories based on capitalism, or,



* These figures indicate the volume and page number of the previous article.



504



SOCIALISM



as leaders in the new-born working-class movement, in endeav-
ouring to organize the " proletariat " for the winning of control
over industry and over the machinery of Society. The Grand
National Consolidated Trades Union, in which Owenite ideas
played so large a part, was organized by men who were aiming
not merely at the protection of the working class in face of
the adverse conditions created by the new factory system, but
at a definite transformation of the industrial order and the
winning of control over industry for the " productive classes."
This aim was even more clearly defined in the other great
" Owenite " union of the period, the Builder's Union, and its
abortive plan of 1833 for the formation of a Grand National Gild
of Builders. The Chartist movement, which was largely in-
fluenced by Owenite and Socialist ideas, was definitely aiming at
the conquest of political power by the organized working class
with a view to social transformation.

Socialism in Great Britain thus came into existence as: (i)
a challenge to the orthodox economic theories of Ricardo and
other writers; and (2) an attempt to win power in Society for the
organized working class. It was, however, left for later thinkers,
and above all for Karl Marx (1818-83), to take up where they
had been dropped by the original English pioneers both the anti-
capitalist economic teachings and the endeavour to build up the
working-class movement into a constructive force aiming at the
transformation of the social order. The Socialism of Karl Marx
is frequently- contrasted with the Socialism of previous thinkers
as being " scientific," whereas their Socialism was " Utopian."
But, in fact, Marx's Socialism was very largely based upon that
of the earlier thinkers and working-class leaders, although he for
the first time formulated into a definite system the views and the
policy which they had only suggested and sought after.

All modern Socialism, even that of the schools which repudiate
or at least profess no allegiance to Marx, has been profoundly
influenced by him. This applies even to those schools of Anar-
chist Communists and French and Italian Syndicalists who
seem to have least in common with Marxian teaching; for, even
in their case, many Marxian ideas have blended with the ideas
which they have derived from other Socialist and (fttasi-Socialist
thinkers, such as P. J. Proudhon; and, although they have in-
terpreted the Marxian teaching differently, a great deal of it has
found its way into their systems and policies.

Marx's first important contribution to Socialist thinking, The
Communist Manifesto (1847), which was drafted jointly by
him and Friedrich Engels, is generally recognized as the starting
point of the modern Socialist movement. His Das Kapital, of
which the first volume was published in 1867, is the working-out
into a system of the most vital ideas originally presented in The
Communist Manifesto. These works have, of course, been trans-
lated into practically all European languages, and their ideas
have generally passed into the common stock of European Social-
ist thought. This has hitherto been true of Great Britain in a
less degree than of any other important industrial country; but
even English Socialism began in the 'eighties on an essentially
Marxian foundation, and, although Marx fell into disfavour with
British Socialists in the 'nineties and in the earlier years of the
present century, there has recently been an important revival of
the study of his works among the more radical section of the
British working-class movement. In other countries the or-
ganized Socialist movement is in practically all cases definitely
Marxian, and bases its thinking and its propaganda throughout
on Marxian terminology and Marxian ideas. Thus we find
that, as divergent currents have again and again appeared in
European Socialism, the name of Marx and his fundamental
conceptions have been invoked, for the purpose of justifying
widely divergent policies and conceptions. During the past few
years, for example, a great pamphleteering controversy has been
proceeding between Nikolai Lenin on the one side and Karl
Kautsky on the other, representing two very different tendencies
in European Socialism. Each of these writers bases his conten-
tions on an almost theological reverence for the words of Marx,
and seeks to justify his position by copious quotations from
Marx's books and manifestos.



In the criticism which has been directed against Marx by or-
thodox economists in many countries, attention has been paid
mainly to his theory of value, and only in a considerably less
degree to his theory of history. This is unfortunate; for there is
no doubt that the theory of value has played a quite secondary
part to the so-called " materialist conception of history " in the
influence which Marx's teaching has exercised on the modern
working-class movement. The theory of value, as it was pre-
sented by Marx, and his attempt to build a theoretical economic
system on the idea of labour as the source of value and exploi-
tation as consisting in the appropriation by a privileged class,
the owners of the means of production, of the surplus value
created by labour, was mainly a criticism and inversion, to suit
Socialist ends, of the current economics of Marx's own day. Like
Thompson and the earlier English economists to whom he owed
so much, Marx took the Ricardian theory of value and drew
from it conclusions by no means acceptable to orthodox economic
theorists. Undoubtedly his ideas of " surplus value," and ex-
ploitation resulting from the individual appropriation of " sur-
plus value," played an important part in creating the sense of
injustice and oppression among the workers; but by themselves
they would never have sufficed to give Marx his dominant posi-
tion as the theorist of modern Socialism.

This position depends far more on his theory of history, the
effect of which was to give to those members of the working
class who encountered his teaching the sense of possessing a mis-
sion and of having on their side the great world forces of social
transformation. Interpreting historical changes as the result of
the operation of economic forces, Marx insisted that to each stage
in the evolution of the means of production there corresponds an
evolution in the forms of political society and in the class struc-
ture of society. The industrial system of the i9th century, he
claimed, had called into existence a new social class, the property-
less, wage-earning "proletariat"; for, although there had been
capitalists and wage-earners in earlier stages of social evolution,
the economic structure of Society had not before been based
upon the dominance of the capitalists as a class. Nor had the
" proletariat " been called into existence as a class, confronting
the possessing capitalists throughout the industrial system in
all the countries of the world which had reached the capitalist
phase. The next stage in social evolution, according to Marx,
would be the rise to power of the " proletariat," and, just as the
capitalists had risen to power and displaced or absorbed the
privileged classes with which social authority had previously
rested, so the " proletariat " under the system of large-scale indus-
try would improve its organization and increase its strength
until it was able to do battle with, and to overthrow, the capital-
ist class. In expounding this theory of "economic determinism"
or the " materialist conception of history," Marx made a number
of prophecies concerning the actual future of capitalist indus-
trialism which have not thus far been at all completely verified.
The progressive elimination of the small capitalist, the aggrega-
tion of the control of capital into fewer and fewer hands, the
progressive " misery " of the " proletariat," which Marx prophe-
sied, are forecasts in which truth and falsehood are intertwined.
But these prophecies concerning the actual course of events are
in no sense vital to his central idea, which is that of the gradual
rise to power of the " proletariat " or working class, and the con-
quest by it of economic authority, resulting necessarily in the
transformation of the political structure of Society and in the
abolition of social classes.

It is easy to see that this doctrine was bound to exercise a
strong fascination over the minds of those men and women of
the working classes who were brought into contact with it.
Whereas, without some such theory they were conscious only of
the enormous strength of the forces to which they were subject,
and of their manifest weakness as almost property-less wage-
earners, living in constant insecurity, at the mercy of trade
fluctuations which resulted periodically in widespread unemploy-
ment, Marx gave them the sense of fulfilling an historic mission,
and of having on their side a world-force far more powerful than
the huge economic and political strength which seemed to be in



SOCIALISM



505



the possession of the ruling classes of the day. It is this one
thing, and one thing only, that explains the veneration in which
Marx is held throughout practically the whole Socialist move-
ment. It was he, who, more than anyone else, gave the working
class a sense of power, and imported into their efforts towards
organization and concerted resistance to the evils to which they
found themselves subject a conscious purpose not merely of
combating capitalism, but also of replacing it.

In the earlier article some account was given of the rise of
Socialist parties in various European countries. This rise contin-
ued at an increasing pace in later years, a great impetus having
been given to the Socialist forces in almost all parts of Europe by
the circumstances of the World War.

There was in 1921 in every industrialized country at least one
Socialist party, possessing in the majority of cases a consider-
able representation in its national Parliament. Indeed, in many
countries there had come into being more than one Socialist par-
ty ; for the process of unification of Socialist political forces which
had been proceeding steadily up to the outbreak of the war gave
place to a separatist tendency, which resulted in a regrouping of
forces in most of the countries in which the movement was strong.
The first cause of these divisions was the attitude of Socialists
towards the outbreak of the World War. In almost all bellig-
erent countries the Socialist parties became divided over the
issues of the war. In some cases these divisions of opinion re-
sulted in actual cleavages within the various parties; in others
the parties held together, but acute divisions of opinion contin-
ued inside them. These differences were greatly accentuated by the
Russian revolutions of 1917, which inevitably exercised a very
powerful influence on Socialist opinion throughout the world.
Just as, in its earlier days as an organized political movement,
Socialism always tended to look back to the Paris Commune of
1871, it now even more definitely looks back to the Russian
revolutions of 1917, upon which the most acute divisions of
opinion in the world of Socialism to-day are based. Any attempt,
therefore, to analyze the forces at work in the Socialist movement
of the various countries in 192 1 must begin by taking into account
the new alignment of opinion caused by the Russian revolutions.

The first Russian revolution of 1917 was universally acclaimed
by Socialists throughout the world. It meant for them the over-
throw of Tsardom and the destruction of the most powerful and
complete absolutist monarchy left in the world. Moreover, ref-
ugees from Russia had played an important part in the Socialist
movement in almost all countries in which it had become organ-
ized. It was not the first of the Russian revolutions but the
coup of Nov. 1917 that divided acutely the Socialists of the vari-
ous countries. Everywhere the left wing of the Socialists acclaimed
the Bolshevik Revolution, while the right wing was hostile to
what it regarded as the overthrow of the "democratic" institu-
tions which had been introduced under the Kerensky regime.

During the following years, from 1918-21, the differences with-
in the Socialist ranks resulting from the Bolshevik Revolution
were steadily accentuated. Under the auspices of the Russian
Bolsheviks, or Communists as they now call themselves, with
a definite reference back to The Communist Manifesto of 1847, a
new international organization of Socialism, the Third or Mos-
cow International, was inaugurated, and an appeal was made to
the " proletariat " in all countries to rally to this new body, of
which the fundamental ideas were the overthrow of the capitalist
regime by the intensive prosecution of the class war, involving
the use of force, and the assumption by the "proletariat" of
dictatorship over Society during the " transitional period,"
which would be necessary both for the combating of the at-
tempts of the " counter-revolution " to regain power, and for the
laying of the foundations of a Socialist or Communist society
free from class distinctions. During the years after the Bolshevik
Revolution these Communist doctrines gradually spread over
Europe, and resulted in the formation in most countries of
Communist groups and parties of varying degrees of importance.
Sometimes these began by working as groups within the existing
Socialist parties, and sometimes they succeeded in winning over
to their side a majority of the older Socialist parties, which thus



became Communist. In other cases, however, the Communists,
unable to command a majority in the Socialist parties in other
countries, founded new and rival parties of their own.

Thus in 1921 the position of European Socialism was extra-
ordinarily complicated, as a reference to the state of affairs in a
few of the principal countries will readily indicate. In France
the Communists had succeeded in securing a majority in the
ranks of the French Socialist party, and it had thereupon changed
its name to the French Communist party. The minority, which
refused to accept the change in name and policy, thereupon re-
formed the Socialist party as a coalition of right wing and central
elements. In Italy the Socialist party, which was throughout
opposed to Italian participation in the war, at first affiliated to
the Moscow International; but subsequently differences arose as
to the strategy to be adopted, and these led to a split in the
ranks of the party, the extreme Communists, who were in a
minority, seceding and forming a Communist party of their
own, while the right and centre, including many Communists,
held together as the Italian Socialist party. In Germany the
Social Democratic party split during the war. A majority sec-
tion of the party supported the German Government in the
prosecution of the war and voted war credits. Gradually a
minority party formed, and finally the anti-war elements left
the Social Democratic party and formed the Independent Social-
ist party. After the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia two small
Communist parties were also formed in Germany. In 1920 the
majority of the Independent Socialist party resolved upon
adhesion to the Moscow International and united with the
Communist factions to form the German Communist party.
The right wing of the Independent Socialist party continued in
existence under the old name; and there were thus in Germany,
in 1921, three distinct parties, Social Democrats or Majority
Socialists, Independent Socialists, and Communists. In Great
Britain the position was somewhat different; for political action
was taken through the Labour party, a federation of trade unions,
Socialist societies and kindred bodies. Of the Socialist societies,
the British Socialist party, the direct descendant of the Social
Democratic Federation, the earliest Socialist body in Great Brit-
ain, affiliated to the Moscow International and became the nu-
cleus of a Communist party which applied for affiliation to the
Labour party, but was refused. The Independent Labour party,
which, unlike the Labour party as a whole, was hostile to par-
ticipation in the war, nevertheless remained affiliated to the
Labour party. There were thus only two groups undertaking
political action in Great Britain the Labour party, including
the Independent Labour party, on the one hand, and the small,
but militant, Communist party on the other.

These instances, drawn from a very much larger number,
serve to illustrate the general character of the divisions which had
arisen in the world Socialist movement since the Russian Revo-
lutions of 191 7. As the movement has been divided nationally, so
a division has taken place in the international organization of
Socialism. Before the war most of the Socialist parties of the
world were loosely held together by the Congresses of the " Sec-
ond International," of which the first was held in 1889. Out
of the Congresses developed the International Socialist Bureau,
which was formed in 1900. The Bureau was unable to function
effectively during the war, both because communications were to
a large extent interrupted, and because of the differences of
opinion between and among the various national sections.
Various attempts were made to secure united action by all the
national Socialist parties; but, in face of the opposition of the
Governments and of internal differences, these produced little
result, the attempt to call an International Socialist conference
at Stockholm in 1918 breaking down. The Socialist parties of
the Allied countries, however, held a number of conferences, and
drew up a declaration of war aims, which exercised a certain
influence. Immediately on the conclusion of hostilities steps
were taken to convene a full International Socialist conference,
and an attempt was made to reform the pre-war Socialist In-
ternational. The reformed body, however, known as the " Sec-
ond International," never became, in face of acute differences



506



SOCIALISM



of opinion, at all fully representative, and during 1919 and 1920
there were numerous secessions from it, until it came to consist
principally of the British Labour party, the German Social


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Online LibraryJessie FothergillThe Encyclopædia Britannica : a dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information (Volume 32) → online text (page 188 of 459)