Copyright
Morris Hillquit.

Socialism in theory and practice online

. (page 14 of 26)
Online LibraryMorris HillquitSocialism in theory and practice → online text (page 14 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Union and of Bismarck's policies, and might tend to obscure
the fact that the struggles in the 'Diet' are but fictitious
struggles and a mere farce." ^

These negative tactics were steadfastly adhered to
during the first two sessions of the North German Diet,
but already the next session witnessed a spontaneous de-
parture from the rigid rule, when several socialist deputies
took the floor in the first parliamentary discussion on the
subject of governmental labor regulation. And the so-
cialist tactics of parliamentary abstinence have since
gradually but definitely given way to the policy of watchful
and energetic parliamentary activity. The socialist depu-
ties in the European parliaments have preserved their
uncompromising attitude of "negation and protest"
practically on the sole subject of the budgets of their respec-
tive governments ; they vote almost uniformly against their
approval, arguing that as representatives of the working
class they cannot consistently grant to capitalist govern-
ments the means to maintain a class state, which in almost
all cases includes a standing army.^ In all other matters,

^ "Ueber die politische Stellung der Sozialdemocratie," p. 12. Com-
pare also, Robert Hunter, "Socialists at Work," New York, 1908, p. 221.

' Recently a strong opposition has developed in the ranks of the Social
Democratic Party of Germany to the continuance of the party's tradi-
tional attitude of protest against the budget.



SOCIALISM AND POLITICS 1 83

however, the socialist groups in the parliaments of Europe
are among the most active and alert : the socialist deputies
are never tired of introducing legislative measures for the
betterment of the social, political and material conditions
of the workingmen, for the curtailment of capitalist ex-
ploitation, and for the advancement of true social progress.

Thus at the convention of the Socialist Party of France,
held at Reims in 1903, the parliamentary representatives
of the party reported that they had introduced during
the preceding session of parliament no less than forty-
six legislative bills, the principal provisions of which
dealt with the following subjects: the guaranty of se-
crecy and liberty of the ballot; the suppression of the
religious budget; the old-age pension; the repeal of the
laws against vagabondage; the right of government and
municipal employees to strike; the monopoly of sugar
refineries; the enactment of a labor code; the abolition
of the trucking system; the abolition of private employ-
ment bureaus; the amendment of the laws on trade unions ;
the abolition of the standing army; the creation of a
department of labor; the introduction of the initiative and
referendum in legislative matters; the freedom of hunting
and fishing, and the insurance of workingmen against
accidents.^

In the session of the German Diet of 1 900-1901, the
representatives of the Social Democratic Party introduced
bills for the amendment of the industrial courts act; for
tenement house regulation and inspection; for the crea-
tion of a national department of labor and of a national
factory inspection bureau; for the limitation of the work-

* "Parti Socialiste de France," Compte-Rendu du Deuxi&me Congres
National, Tenu a Reims, September 27-29, 1903, p. 28.



184 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

day of all employees in industrial, commercial and other
occupations and pursuits, to ten hours; for the prohibition
of employment of children under the age of fourteen
years; for the extension of legal protection to working-
women, especially those pregnant or in childbed; for the
prohibition of the manufacture, import and export of
matches with white phosphorus; for the extension of
the rights of assembly, organization and coalition; for
the extension and guaranty of the liberty of the press;
for the abolition of the offense of lese majeste; for the
immunity of members of parliament from arrest during
parliamentary sessions; for enforcing the responsibility
of the Imperial Chancellor to the Diet, and for the reap-
portionment of parliamentary electoral districts in accord-
ance with the increase of the population/

We have chosen these instances of proposed socialist
legislation from the two countries in which the socialist
parliamentary groups are the oldest and have had ample
time to settle down to fixed parliamentary practices, for
the reason that the wide and varied scope of these pro-
posed measures is typical of the socialist activity in the
parliaments of all other European countries. Besides the
proposed laws of the character of those mentioned, there
are numerous other radical measures advocated most
uniformly and persistently by socialists in parliaments,
among them being those providing for a graduated in-
come and inheritance tax.

But the effort to initiate legislation does not by any
means exhaust the parliamentary work of the socialists.

• " ProtokoU iiber die Verhandlungen des Parteitages der Sozialdemo-
kratischen Partei Deutschlands," abgehalten zu Liibeck, September 22-
28, 1901, p. 77.



SOCIALISM AND POLITICS 1 8$

The socialist deputies take part in the discussion on all
legislative measures of social import introduced by the
government or other parties, supporting or opposing or
urging amendments, according to the nature of the pro-
posed measure; they make full and sometimes very
effective use of their right to interpellate the government
on its actions, attitude or intentions with respect to matters
or occurrences of public interest ; they accept membership
in the various parliamentary committees, and generally
participate in all the detailed work of the parliaments.
Thus the attitude of the socialists towards the positive
work of parliaments has changed very radically within
the last few decades, and the change was by no means
arbitrary, but was brought about by the increased political
strength of the socialist movement. A movement may
well maintain a purely negative and criticising attitude
so long as it is numerically weak and politically insignifi-
cant. But when the movement grows in strength and
extension and gradually becomes a recognized social and
political power, it can no longer remain at a dignified
distance from the actual and practical struggles of modern
industrial and political life — it is forced into the very
center of these struggles and is involved in all their details :
its progress becomes more persistent and aggressive, its
program and practical work become more detailed and
specific.

In 1867, when Liebknecht and his associates first formu-
lated their rigorous program of parliamentary abstention,
Germany was the only country that had socialist repre-
sentatives in parliament, and the total number of these
representatives was eight. To-day, after just forty years,
the socialist parties have over four hundred deputies in



1 86 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

the national parliaments of sixteen European countries,
and hosts of representatives in minor legislative assemblies
and municipal councils all over the world.

The socialist deputies in every country constitute a
separate and independent parliamentary group, but they
freely support other parties in parliaments in such meas-
ures and actions as they consider to be in the interests of
the working class or in the furtherance of true social
progress. The difference between such political coopera-
tion in parliament and cooperation or combination in
electoral campaigns is obvious. In parliaments votes are
taken upon concrete and single issues from time to time;
each party determines its stand on a given issue in con-
formity with its general views and the interests of its
constituents, and the parties taking a similar stand natu-
rally vote and act together on the particular issue. No
compromise or organic fusion is involved in the pro-
cedure. The socialists in parHament frequently accept
and support compromise measures, but only in cases
where the measures contain at least some positive benefit
to their cause; they do not indulge in the practice of po-
litical "swapping," by which one party often gives its
support to a measure which it would otherwise oppose, in
return for the similar support for its pet measures by the
other party.

Nor do the socialist representatives in parliament make
lasting or permanent alliances with the other parties for
any purpose.

When the famous ''bloc republicain" was formed in the
Parliament of France as a defensive and offensive union
against the monarchists and reactionaries, who were
advanced to the foreground by the violent anti-Dreyfus



SOCIALISM AND POLITICS

agitation, one wing of the socialist group, the moderates
or opportunists, joined the " 6/oc." But that poUcy proved
so unsatisfactory to the sociaHsts of France, and met with
such decided criticism from the sociaHsts of other countries,
that it was soon abandoned.

Another and much more mooted point of parhamentary
tactics presented itself to the socialists of Europe in recent
years. In 1899, the "radical" French premier, Waldeck-
Rousseau, conferred the portfolio of Commerce and In-
dustry on the socialist deputy, Etienne Millerand, and
thus for the first time in the history of modern politics
a socialist became a full-fledged cabinet minister. The
event came as a surprise to the socialists of France as well
as to the socialists of all other countries, and the wisdom of
Millerand' s entry into the Waldeck-Rousseau cabinet, or,
stated in terms of the general principle involved, the wis-
dom of socialist participation in a bourgeois government,
for a time furnished the foremost subject of discussion in
the socialist press and in all socialist party circles.

The defenders of Millerand's course, who came to be
known as "ministerialists," saw in the entry of a socialist
into the government of the country a partial attainment
of that "conquest of the powers of government" which is
the final political aim of all socialist parties. The offer
of a cabinet portfolio to a socialist, they argued, is not a
free gift on the part of the government ; it is a concession
forced from it by the growing strength of the party. It
is as much a legitimate object of political conquest as is a
seat in parliament, and the socialists having conquered
that high position in the administration of the affairs of
the country, would prove themselves inconsistent and weak-
kneed if they should shrink from its responsibilities instead



.^lALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT
l88 THF -

of utilizing its great opportunity for the advancement of
their cause.

On the other hand, the ultra radical wing of the socialist
movement in France and other countries was utterly
opposed to participation of socialists in bourgeois govern-
ments under any and all circumstances. The powers of
government in a centralized state, they declared, cannot
be conquered piecemeal. As long as the dominant inter-
ests in parliament are those of the capitalist class, the
government must, on the whole, be a class government,
administered in the interests of the possessing classes and
directed against the classes of non-possessors, and a socialist
member of such a government is bound to become a tool
of the bourgeoisie in its struggles against the workingmen.
The socialist party can gain no positive benefit from the
membership of one of its representatives in a bourgeois
cabinet, but it may suffer incalculable harm by assuming
responsibility for the acts of a hostile government.

The views of the great bulk of socialists outside of
France on the vexed question were admirably expressed
by Karl Kautsky in a letter to the "ministerial" French
newspaper, Petite Republique : * —

"The question whether and to what extent the socialist
proletariat may participate in a bourgeois government,"
writes he, "is a question of tactics, which must be an-
swered differently in different countries and at different
times, and which I do not dare to answer in absolute and
unconditional terms.

"In Switzerland and in England, such a participation
would seem to me possible; in Germany, out of the
question.

* Reproduced in Die Neue Zeit, 19th Year, Vol. I, p. 37.



SOCIALISM AND POLITICS 1 89

"But just because I cannot give an absolute answer, I
cannot assert that the principle of class struggle prohibits
a socialist from entering a bourgeois cabinet under all
circumstances.

"Under normal conditions a socialist who recognizes
the class struggle will be as little inclined to enter a
bourgeois cabinet as an atheist would be inclined to enter
a clerical cabinet, or a republican a cabinet of Bonapart-
ists. His activity in such a cabinet could in the long run
hardly have any other effect than to corrupt and to com-
promise him and his party.

" But I do not mean to say that there may not be ex-
ceptional cases in which it may sometimes be proper for
socialists to cooperate for a definite purpose with bourgeois
democrats in the same government against a common
enemy, without violating the principle of class struggle.
Such experiments will indeed always be dangerous, but
there may be possible situations which would justify
them."

The Millerand experiment has abundantly proved that
the exceptional situation of which Kautsky spoke did not
exist in .lis case, and the official career of the first socialist
minister has, on the whole, confirmed the apprehensions
of the "anti-ministerialists." The socialist parties in
France Lnd other countries have now adopted the definite
policy of uniformly declining membership in cabinets,
and while there are to-day two socialist ministers in France
(Briand and Viviani) and one in England (John Burns),
the socialist parties of these countries disclaim all connec-
tion witli or responsibility for them. Viviani and Burns
had ceased to be members of the Socialist Party long before
they accepted their portfolios, and Briand was summarily



190 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

expelled from membership in his party as soon as he
entered the cabinet. As showing the prevalence of the
fashion of appointing socialists to cabinet positions, it is
amusing to note that even Tsar Nicholas II could not
abstain from offering to a prominent Finnish socialist,
Mr. J. K. Kari, a portfolio in the Finnish cabinet. Mr.
Kari, formerly secretary of the Finnish Socialist Party,
accepted the offer, and was promptly read out of the party.
" What a strange pass our bourgeois republic has come
to at this day," exclaims Jean Jaures, "when cabinets can-
not live without calling in socialists, even when socialists as
a party deliberately decline to take office; when the repub-
lican majority not only turns to our model socialists to bring
about needed reforms, but even has recourse to the rene-
gades of revolutionary socialism to carry out effective
measures against the advancing hosts! The Third Re-
public utilizes our men of energy and even our traitors !" *

Political Achievements of Socialism

The practical political activity of the socialist parties
is, on the whole, of quite recent date. The social demo-
crats of Germany entered on their first electoral campaign
as far back as 1867, but for almost twenty years they
stood practically alone in the field of socialist politics.
Sporadic attempts at electoral campaigns were made by
socialists in Holland beginning in 1880, in Italy in 1882
and in Denmark in 1884; but as well-organized and con-
tinuous political parties the socialists entered the political
arena in France in 1885, in Denmark in 1889, in Sweden in
1890, in Italy in 1892, in Spain in 1893, i^ Belgium in

* The Independent, New York, June 20, 1907. '



SOCIALISM AND POLITICS I9I

1894, and finally in Austria, Holland and Norway as late
as 1897. In the United States the socialists nominated
their first national ticket in 1892. In some of these coun-
tries the socialists had occasionally engaged in municipal
and other minor campaigns somewhat earlier, but on the
whole it may be said that the average period of practical
and systematic socialist activity in politics does not exceed
twenty years.

This comparatively short space of time has by no
means been barren of positive results for the socialist
movement and the working class.

The parliamentary achievements of the socialist parties
may be divided into such reforms and measures as are
directly traceable to socialist initiative and such as are the
indirect results of socialist politics.

The reforms of the former class are few and rather
insignificant, as must naturally be expected in view of the
fact that the socialists as yet constitute but a small minority
in every parliament, and a minority generally hostile to
the rest of the house. Moreover, in several European
parliaments, notably in the German Diet, a fixed and
rather large number of seconders is required before a
proposed measure may be considered by the house ; and in
most of such countries the socialist parliamentary groups
have not been, until recent years, numerous enough to
comply with such requirements, so that their activity was
of necessity limited to the support or opposition of measures
introduced by the government or by other parties.

Summing up the positive achievements of social demo-
cratic politics in the German Diet, Hermann Molkenbuhr ^

1 "Positive Leistungen der Sozialdemocratie," Die Neue Zeit, 25th
Year, Nos. 27, 29 and 30.



192 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

claims some direct socialist victories in all the domains
of parliamentary legislation dealing with workingmen's
insurance, factory laws, industrial courts, the civil code,
protective tariff and taxation. Taking the existing
German law on accident insurance as an illustration, he
shows, by an elaborate analysis of the origin of its
various provisions, that no less than twelve of its most
substantial amendments have been adopted on motion of
the social democratic party, while the party of the center,
which habitually poses as the champion of the working
class, has only two of such amendments to its credit,
the party of the government and the liberal union, each
one, the other parties having contributed nothing at
all to the amelioration of this important law. In France
the socialist deputies have initiated or secured the passage
of several favorable measures, among them laws reducing
the hours of labor of government employees, extending
the powers of municipalities, suppressing private employ-
ment bureaus, and several important amendments to the
accident insurance law. In Denmark the socialists in
parliament have, after persistent efforts of twenty years,
recently succeeded in securing the passage of a law which
makes it incumbent on the government and municipalities
to grant considerable subsidies to labor organizations
formed for the support of their unemployed members.
In Italy, Belgium and Switzerland the socialist representa-
tives in parliament have at one time or another succeeded
in securing the passage of several measures of social re-
form, while in Sweden, Norway and Austria the socialist
parties have within recent years secured largely extended
suffrage.
Far more important, however, than the laws directly



SOCIALISM AND POLITICS 1 93

initiated in parliaments by socialist representatives, are
those numerous measures of social legislation which have
within the last two decades been passed by the parliaments
of almost all civilized countries as the indirect but never-
theless legitimate result of socialist political action. These
measures are as a rule taken by the liberal or even con-
servative parties bodily or with some changes from the pro-
grams formulated by the socialist parties, and are fathered
as original proposals of the opponents of socialism in order
to destroy the effectiveness of the socialist propaganda.
Far-seeing statesmen sometimes meet such "issues" with
apparent cheerfulness, even before they have acquired the
force of popular demands, and shortsighted governments
grant them grudgingly when the general cry for them has
practically become irresistible. Prince Bismarck, as was
pointed out in a previous chapter,* frankly avowed that the
object of the broad social legislation inaugurated by him
was primarily to avert a popular revolution, and the greater
part of the social and political reforms inaugurated since
by the several parliaments of Europe clearly owe their
origin to similar considerations. In those countries of
Europe in which the socialist movement has attained
such political strength as to cause alarm to the parties of
the dominant classes, the latter regularly shape their
policies with special reference to their probable effect on
the socialist vote, and the "stealing of the socialist thunder"
is one of their favorite manoeuvers, especially in time of
approaching electoral campaigns. Chancellor Von Buelow
has publicly admitted this fact for Germany, and it is
more than an accident that the golden era of social legisla-
tion in all other countries coincides quite closely with the

* "Social Legislation and Socialist Jurisprudence."



194 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

period of practical socialist politics; that countries in which
political socialism is weak, as, for instance, the United
States, are the most backward in the domain of social
legislation, and that the few labor laws occasionally passed
by the American state legislatures are so often nullified
by court decisions.

But all the parliamentary victories of socialism, direct
or indirect, are but a minor part of the political achieve-
ments of the socialist parties. Socialist politics is not
restricted to parliamentary elections and activity; it
extends to all minor divisions of the state in which the
administration is wholly or partly elective, to the landtags
of Germany, the cantonal councils of Switzerland, the pro-
vincial councils of other countries, the state legislatures of
the United States, and above all, the councils of munici-
palities. And it is the last-mentioned domain in which
the socialists have so far achieved their greatest practical
triumphs.

The powers of municipalities are, as a very uniform rule,
largely restricted by the state, and a socialist administra-
tion never has the opportunity to realize all or even a sub-
stantial part of its program within the scope of a municipal
government. But on the other hand the socialists, while
they have so far not succeeded in a single instance in con-
quering the government of an entire country, province or
state, have gained the absolute majority in the councils of
numerous municipalities in many countries of Europe and
within the very restricted scope of municipal powers they
have had the opportunity to experiment in practical
administrative problems.

Of the countries with a strong socialist representation
in the municipal administration, we must mention in the



SOCIALISM AND POLITICS 1 95

first place France, where but one wing of the socialist
movement, the Parti Ouvrier Fran^ais, in 1904, had full
control of the administration of 63 municipalities and a
grand total of over 1300 municipal councilors in 174
cities and towns. The unified Socialist Party of France
has to-day about 3800 representatives and officers in
about 500 municipalities. The Italian socialists adminis-
ter over one hundred towns and cities and have represen-
tation in the councils of more than 1200 municipalities;
the socialists of Belgium have majorities in the councils of
22 municipalities and a total of 650 representatives in 193
towns; those of Austria had, in 1904, 526 representatives
in 178 municipalities; the socialists of Norway elected in
1907 over HOC representatives in urban and rural com-
munities; those of Denmark have over 400 municipal
councilors, and the socialists of England and Sweden
have strong representations in the municipal administra-
tion of their countries. Even the Socialist Party of the
United States has at different times had the control of
the administration of several towns, and has about three
hundred municipal officers in the different parts of the
country.

The work and achievements of these socialist municipali-
tifes vary in each country according to the special condition
of their inhabitants and the latitude of action allowed to
them by the central governments, but a pretty complete
picture of such work and achievements may be obtained
from a brief description of the main features of "municipal
socialism" in the countries where it is most strongly
represented.

From the country in which municipal socialism is


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryMorris HillquitSocialism in theory and practice → online text (page 14 of 26)