R. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) Ensor.

Modern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; online

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Online LibraryR. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) EnsorModern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; → online text (page 17 of 35)
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in the contrary event work must be continued. The vote
must be repeated at least once a week. If there appears no
prospect of the strike being eaded by the surrender of one
side or the other, then at the instance of one of those con-
Thearbitpa- cerned, or the authorities, the labour council, the
tion court. convened representation of the organized workers
and employers, takes action. The appropriate section of the
labour council forms the court of arbitration ; its decision is
valid for six months, and both sides must conform to it.

This Bill, whatever one's attitude to its proposals in detail,

means undoubtedly a bold step in social policy.^ The scientific

■ The Bill's reception by the French trade-unions was, on the whole,


spokesman of the French Manchester School, Lcroy-Beaulieu,
has called it " the most colossal revolution that France has
made since the great Revolution." That, 1 admit, is exag-
gerated ; but a Socialistic author has justly insisted, that
Millerand's work makes for fundamental and revolutionary
change, and denotes an infraction of the bourgeois idea of
law by Socialistic thought. In Europe there is nowhere
anything like it; on the other hand, a law of the colony of
New Zealand, of 1894, served Millerand as a model in
many respects, while, generally, the social legislation of
Australia is very advanced, and deserves much more con-
sideration by the working-class than hitherto has been given
to it.

Every German reader will at once be led to compare the
Bill with our vanished '* Prison-house " Law. Only, the
P'rench Government pursues precisely the opposite
tendency. In the "Prison-house" Law the "free auRudeof
labourers," the strike-breakers, were proclaimed German and

the ideal workmen, the "element of value" for ^^^"^"^
' Govern-

the State and society, which should be efficaciously ments to

protected against the " revolutionaries." In France ^^^.^^:
' ^ . unionism.

they proceed from the opposite standpoint, that
the fights of the workers with capital have not an individual
but a collective character, and so cannot be decided by the
will of the single mdividual ; since the worker who disowns
or betrays solidarity and does not incorporate himself in an
organization is the less estimable for that, and it is therefore
the interest and object of the State in wage-conflicts to make
the majority decide and the minority obey. While the Bill
makes striking under some circumstances obligatory, it recog-
nizes and legalizes the strike as a very exceptional weapon,
to be used with all prudence, though not to be dispensed with
under the present system of production. Further, it recognizes
the workers' right to a voice in the determination of labour

distinctly hostile. It therefore has not been proceeded with, but remains
in suspense, as French Bills often do for long periods.


conditions. The preamble of the Bill says expressly : " Labour
is the fellow-worker with Capital. But it is a fellow-worker
who cannot without injustice and unwisdom be treated as
under age. If its sudden onsets disturb the best-planned
business operations, because nothing has been done to initiate
it into the difficulties of enterprise, it is perverse to reproach
it with its ignorance of the situation." That signifies the
affirmation in principle of the practical legal equality of labour
with capital, of the workers' share in determining the process
of production.

Further, the effort towards furthering organization in every
way and thereby enabling the workers to introduce further
social improvements and innovations by themselves, comes
out clearly again in this Bill. I have already pointed out,
that in all its own relations to the workers the State submits
to the Strike Law and sets a good example ; and also — what
in France is regarded as a matter of course — how the workmen
and employees of the State and other public undertakings
enjoy to their full extent the advantages of all other labour
laws, and in particular the right of combination. In the
preamble to Millerand's Bill the Government expressly indicate
as their aim : " To develop the natural community of interest
between the workers, to pave the way for trade organizations,
and so to found a strong organization of labour." And the
preamble closes with words which show so much social insight,
that we in Germany have a difficulty in imagining that they
proceed from a Government's lips. They run : " The Govern-
ment of the Republic in proposing the present Bill pursues,
as in the recent creation of labour councils, a task of social
education and organization. It proclaims its confidence in
the organized |workers and the educative power of organiza-
tion. It shows that it finds the security for social progress
in reason, in loyal negotiations between representatives of the
mutually opposed interests, in the scientific method, and in
the realization of gradual advances. These are conditioned
by economic transformations, whose final end no one can


flatter himself that he foresees, but for which every far-sighted

man must open up peaceful and fruitful paths."

One further observation I should like to make, because it

best marks the spirit which inspires Millerand in his whole

activity. I have tried to show you, that the number

of reforms carried by the Socialist Minister is an principle

imposing: one, and that their importance for the of Miiie-

, • -n, ^r-,, , , • ^r ■ r rand ; the

workers is extreme. But Millerand himself is far workers

from exaggerating his achievements, and he knows mustor-

well enough that the main work must be done better them-

by the organized workers themselves. When selves.

Millerand appeared last year before a meeting of workers at

Lille, he closed his speech with the following words : " No

doubt the measures I have introduced may secure for the

workers an improvement in their condition. But their moral

value is much greater. They appeal to the self-help of the

workers, they give to the organizations of the workers as well

as of the employers an influence on the fixing of wages, hours,

and other conditions of work. What I aimed at especially

was to stimulate the trade-unions to new activity and induce

workers not yet belonging to them to rally to them — in short,

to strengthen the trade-unions. In this manner we help to

show the right way to workers willing to free themselves. We

cry aloud to them, ' Organize ! Singly, you are nothing ;

organized, you will be such an economic and moral force as

this country has never known.' "

What these words express is — whatever be the special

demands of place and time — the view of every Socialist.

Organization is the essence of the workers' move- . ,

Identity ot
ment, the bottom condition of the emancipation this prin-

of labour and of the new social order. Just cipiewith
1 , , ^ , • , that at the

for that reason, though a Government may thmk base of

itself, and be thought by its friends, ever so friendly Social

, , , , . , ., . Democracy,

to the workers, though in detail it may even

pass this or that relatively useful measure of social policy,

yet it will always encounter the greatest distrust and the



keenest opposition from the workers, so long as it ignores
that truth and hinders the organization of the workers instead
of furthering it. Such a short-sighted proceeding can only
aggravate, and embitter, and complicate itself, without being
able to effect any real change. The irresistible rise of the
working-class, which characterizes our time, no force can
impede ; sooner or later it will succeed in acquiring the power
which is needed to carry out the economic, social, and spiritual
emancipation of humanity.



With a Commentary by the Executive of the
Socialist Party of France

This Congress occurred on April 12-14, ^9^3, and v/as solely
occupied in discussing M. Millerand's Reformist policy.

Millerand was attacked for dissociating his vote from his party's
on three occasions: (i) on a resolution to abolish the State-grants for
public worship, (2) on a resolution to prosecute Socialists who had
issued a book held subversive of military discipline, (3) on a resolution
inviting the Foreign Minister to make proposals regarding inter-
national disarmament.

The following extracts omit the long controversies over these
votes, which Millerand defended, but promised not to repeat. The
main debate was concentrated round two questions— whether Mille-
rand should be censured, and whether he should be excluded.

From the Speech of M. Herve (Anti-Millerand).

In the federation of the Yonne it is not our idea to take sides
as between the reformist method and the revolutionary. In
our federation there are partisans of both methods. But the
majority, Uke myself, are reformists and revolutionaries at the
same time. We are reformists in the sense that we do not
believe, with the old Marxists, that our societies are split
sharply into proletariate on one side, and great capitalists on



the other; and it is in this sense that I said at the Tours
Congress that the class-war does not seem to us as rigid a
dogma as it seemed to Karl Marx. I know that beside the
proletariate there are small country landowners who substantially
are much nearer to us than to the capitalist class. And I
believe, moreover, with the reformists, that we should endeavour,
by moderation of form and language, to bring over to our
side all the really democratic groups in the nation. Thus,
like all the Socialists of the Yonne, we applauded the defenders
of the Republic at the outset of the Dreyfus affair and at the
height of the crisis. That is the sense in which we are

But we are, at the same time, revolutionaries, because we
are strongly imbued with the idea that the economic situation
does really create hostile and antagonistic classes in our
societies. We are revolutionaries, because we know that the
bourgeoisie possesses such powers, and the masses of capital
which it holds give it such means of falsifying universal
suffrage, that we are not at all sure. Citizen Millerand, of
attaining our desired solution by the reformist method. Our
weapon has two edges — one the spirit of gradual reform, the
other that of revolution ; you wish, for your part, to blunt one
edge of our weapon, while we, for our part, wish loyally to
join hands with the group of the Radical party which resolves
to go forward and take the turn to the Left. Yet, should that
group some day turn its back on us, I want us not to emasculate
the working-class ; I want us, after having been able to join
hands, to be able on occasion to clench fists. We admit that
by legal methods radical reforms may be attained; but we
know, too, that it is force that for long past has presided at the
birth of a new society, and probably, alas ! will preside again.

From the Speech of M. Sarraute (Pro-Millerand).

It is an entire policy which you are to judge. This policy
is the policy of democratic Socialism, which gains ground daily


on that of revolutionary Socialism — I will ask you to let me
briefly explain why — a policy which Citizen Millerand did not
start, which he has merely developed and defined, and which
forces itself upon us more and more in our Republican

I say " in our Republican country," and I would not, indeed,
frame light-hearted generalizations or lay down fixed absolute
rules independent of time and place. Historical and social
environment does not square with these doctrinaire fancies,
and it is quite futile to try inferring rules of action and conduct
from a general idea or an absolute abstract principle. That
is, however, what has been done, and is still done to-day, by
some Socialistic theorists, who, starting from the evident, irre-
futable, incontestable fact which is the very root and ground
of Socialism — the class-war — have, without taking environment
and institutions into account, given this fact a bearing and an
effect which cannot be unreservedly admitted. For them, in
fact, the class-war is not merely the conflict carried on through
the ages between the Haves and the Have-nots— the conflict
which in our modern societies pits capitalists against pro-
letarians. For them the notion of the class-war is ampler and
more comprehensive. It absorbs the whole life of society ;
administrative, political, and judicial institutions are merely
the swords and sceptres of the possessing class. The State is
a class-State.

From this conception, citizens, are derived in practice two
sets of consequences, all the importance of which you shall
grasp briefly. Firstly, the State and political institutions, being
by essence and definition an instrument subserving the possess-
ing class, cannot be expected to contribute anything to the
emancipation of the workers; they are not to be won over,
but to be broken in pieces, and the one issue open to the
proletariate labouring for emancipation is the revolutionary
issue. Secondly, as soon as the class-war absorbs the whole
life of society, and poUtical and social institutions are only
different manifestations of this war, there cannot logically be


any interests in common between the capitalist and proletaiian
classes, and the supposed general interests — order, economic
prosperity, national independence — are only private interests
in disguise, interests of the possessing class, which the pro-
letariate, therefore, should not take into account. That is
how, citizens, the principle of the class-war has been interpreted
by some Socialistic theorists, whose high moral and intellectual
worth I hasten to recognize. That is how, in abstraction
from the conditions of time and environment, there has been
developed this notion of the class-State, with the two conse-
quences which I have just emphasized : firstly, revolutionary
action ; and secondly, the denial of the general interests of

But, you quite understand, that was theory, abstract
theory; and as soon as the Socialist party came down from
the heights of speculation and took part directly in action ; as
soon as it clashed against the reality which it wished to trans-
form, its practice at once ceased to be anything but a perpetual
permanent violation of the rules of action laid down by that
uncompromising hard-and-fast doctrine. Fact avenged itself.
These deviations and compromises, for which some of our
comrades are so bitterly and passionately reproached, do not
date from to-day or from yesterday. They date from the first
contact of theory with facts ; they go back to the very origins
of the Socialist party, to the day when it took shape as a
political party and would fain exert a serious influence on the
course of events, the day when by its first most crying contra-
diction, having laid down as a principle, as an axiom beyond
discussion, the class character of the State and the impossibility
of reformist action, it elaborated the articles of a minimum
programme, a programme of immediate demands, and applied
to the public power, to the State, for its realization. The
explanation, citizens, of this deviation from the absolute
abstract principle of the class -war, of this rapid and decisive
evolution which leads to legal and reformist action, is not to
be found in the weakness of individuals, nor in the fascination


or the corrupting effect of power ; it is to be found entirely in
the great fact which dominates our modern society — Demo-
cracy. Democracy is, indeed, the denial of the class-State.
The class-State only has a meaning so far as the possessing
class is by the very fact of possession the governing class, and
the monopoly of property is reinforced by the monopoly of
public power. On the contrary, as soon as the State is
democratized, and equal rights are admitted for all, whether
capitalists or proletarians, as soon as the regime of majorities
replaces class-oligarchy, and the regime of property qualifica-
tions, it becomes contradictory and meaningless to talk of a
class-State. Political and social institutions are no longer the
work and the instrument of the possessing class ; they become
the work of the majority ; they can be steered and guided in
the direction of the public interest.

This speech was followed by one from M. Millerand in which
he defended his votes, and substantially accepted M. Sarraute's
principles. (Cp. also infra^ pp. 180-184). After him spoke M. Jaurfes.

From the First Speech oe M. Jaures.

Citizens, I should like to reply, as shortly but as clearly as
possible, at once to Citizen Herve, to Citizen Sarraute, and to
Citizen Millerand, and particularly to the observations of
Citizen Sarraute and Citizen Millerand. For my part, I reject
absolutely the motion of exclusion proposed against Millerand.
I find it not only brutal, but unjust and impolitic. I add that
it would be extremely dangerous, if it should have the effect of
hampering the free, fair, and needful criticism, which I think
we should oppose to some unfortunate votes and a dangerous
tactic, formulated here in theory by Sarraute and in practice by

Yes, it is true, as Sarraute has said, that some of our
Socialist comrades, whether inside or outside this hall,
interpret the class-war in a sense much too simple, one-sided,
and abstract. It is true that it is not enough to note the


antagonism between the capitalist and wage-earning classes ;
you must at once add — and Sarraute is right in insisting on
it — that this antagonism moves and develops inside demo-
cracy, that it undergoes the conditions of the democratic
regime, and that the struggle between the two opposed classes,
between the two groups of antagonistic interests, cannot have
either the same form, the same character, or the same means
in a republican democracy and in a despotic or oligarchic
state. That is true and incontestable.

But where Citizen Sarraute goes wrong in his turn, where
he falls into the over-simplification for which he blames his
opponents, is when he thinks it enough to lay down the
principle of democracy in order to resolve, in a sort of
automatic fashion, the antagonisms of society. Yes, we are
under a democratic regime, but the enthronement of political
democracy and universal suffrage by no means suppresses the
profound antagonism of classes. Citizen Sarraute seems to
transport himself to the end of political evolution; he seems to
think that political democracy has received its supreme formula
— as if political democracy itself could receive its supreme
form while it is in contradiction with an economic form, not,
for its part, penetrated by democracy, Sarraute's mistake is to
consider political democracy in the abstract ; just as Guesde,
to my thinking, errs in positing the class-war apart from
democracy, Sarraute errs in positing democracy without noting
that it is modified, adulterated, thwarted by the antagonism of
classes and the economic predominance of one class.

Even universal suffrage and political democracy undergo
class-influence. Universal suffrage, in all its applications and
its political movement, undergoes the economic influence of
contemporary society in two ways. The most visible influence
of economic oligarchy on political democracy is the pressure
that employers controlling all the means of work, and there-
fore of existence, can exert on the workers by threatening
dismissals and lock-outs ; and daily the worker is injured in
his portion of political democracy, because he has not his


portion of social sovereignty. But there is another distorting
influence of our economic regime upon democracy — what I
will call the influence of habit. Not only does the proleteriate
too often suffer violence directly from the economic power of
capitahsts, but, if I may say so, its own mind is distorted by the
habit of the social regime^ under which it lives. The worst
tyranny exerted by a social regime or form is, that in
absorbing all the strength of the workers and pouring them
into the mould of contemporary society, it renders a very great
number of workers whom it overwhelms incapable even of
conceiving another possible way of applying their strength.
Thus contemporary society weighs doubly on the workers in
the exercise of this political sovereignty ; which is violated,
firstly, by the employers, and secondly, by the silent and
chronic capitaHstic prejudice, stamped by habit on the very
class which suffers from its sway. It is to react against
these fatal effects — this pressure, this distortion — exerted by
economic inequality even on the pohtical action of the wage-
workers, that we must aftirm, always within the democracy,
the antagonism of classes and the need for the proletarian
class to organize ; and always affirm the collectivist or com-
munist ideal in the definite, precise, vigorous form needed to
dissipate the capitalistic prejudice inoculated into the prole-
tarian class itself

If Sarraute will allow me to say so, he too — and I would
invite his philosophic attention to it — has worked one-sidedly,
in too simple and abstract a fashion. When I heard him
speak of political democracy expressing itself above parties
and classes by the impartial and decisive law of majorities, he
seemed to me to imagine universal suffrage as a sort of extra-
ordinary, supra-mundane God, living outside mankind and
shaping the world. No, universal suffrage is carried along in the
great current of economic action, influenced and distorted by
it ; and just as under the level surface of the sea subsist the
unevennesses of the sea-floor, its hills and its abysses, so the
flood of democracy has not yet got rid of social inequalities ;


they mingle with it, and it is for us to achieve their destruction,
for the proletariate to fill up the abysses and realize equality.
Consequently the relation of the proletariate to the State is
falsified by Sarraute in one way, just as, I think, it is falsified
by Guesde in the other.

Guesde is wrong in thinking to-day (I knew a time when
he did not think so) that the State is exclusively a class-State,
upon which the too feeble hand of the proletariate cannot yet
inscribe the smallest portion of its will. In a democracy, in a
Republic where there is universal suffrage, the State is not for
the proletarians a refractory, hard, absolutely impermeable and
inpenetrable block. Penetration has begun already. In the
municipalities, in Parliament, in the central Government, there
has begun the penetration of Socialistic and proletarian in-
fluence ; and, really, it is a strange conception of human
affairs which can imagine any institution whatever, any politi-
cal or social form whatever, capable of being closed to the
irradiation, the influence, the penetration of one of the great
social forces. To say that the State is the same — the same
closed, impenetrable, rigid State, brazenly bourgeois — under
an oligarchic regime, which refuses the proletarians universal
suffrage, and under a rtgvne of universal suffrage, which, after
all, lets the workers transmit their will even to Government
by delegates with the same powers and rights as the dele-
gates of the bourgeoisie itself, is to contradict all the laws
of Nature. There is no one force in Nature impenetrable to
others ; all are moving and crossing, all act on each other ;
and henceforth the State is penetrated, in part, by the force of
Socialism and the proletariate.

If it is in part penetrated by this democratic, popular.
Socialistic force, and if we can reasonably hope (and I do hope,
as do Sarraute and Millerand) that by organization, education,
and propaganda this penetration will become so full, deep, and
decisive, that in time by accumulated efforts we shall find the
proletarian and Socialistic State to have replaced the oligarchic
and bourgeois State, I do not believe, either, that there will


necessarily be an abrupt leap, the crossing of the abyss ;
perhaps we shall be aware of having entered the zone of the
Socialistic State, as navigators are aware of having crossed the
line of a hemisphere — not that they have been able to see as
they crossed it a cord stretched over the ocean warning them
of their passage, but that little by little they have been led into

Online LibraryR. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) EnsorModern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; → online text (page 17 of 35)