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In its official
organ it has quoted Mr. Debs as saying: "When the revolution comes we
will be prepared to take possession and assume control of every
industry." The quotation is fairly chosen, and represents the Socialist
standpoint, but if it is to be thoroughly understood it must be taken in
connection with other positions taken by the party. No revolution is
contemplated, other than one of the overwhelming majority of the people,
nor is any violence expected, other than such that may be instigated by
a privileged minority in order to prevent the majority from gaining
control of the government and industries of the country.

That the Civic Federation writers also understand that the violence may
come from above rather than from below is clearly shown in the context
of the article in question. The Federation organ also attacks Mrs. J. G.
Phelps Stokes for having said, at Barnard College, that the present
government would probably be overturned by the ballot. In answer to
this, the Federation's organ said, "Mrs. Stokes is a woman of
intelligence and doubtless knows that States are not overturned by
ballots." Here is a categorical denial on the part of an organ
representing the most powerful privileged element in the country, of the
possibility of _peaceful_ political revolution, which can only mean that
if a majority desires such a peaceful revolutionary change, the minority
now in power will use violence to prevent it. An article by one of the
Federation's officials, Ada C. Sweet, in the same number, makes still
further disclosures. Among the "fantastic projects and schemes of
Socialism," she says, are the demand "that the Constitution be made
amendable by a majority vote," and the demand for the abolition of that
feature of our government "which makes the Supreme Court the final
interpreter and guardian of the federal Constitution." These demands, of
course, are becoming common outside of the Socialist Party, and would
simply move the United States up to the semi-democratic level of
constitutions made during the last half century. Indeed, the judicial
precedents that have created an oligarchy of judges in this country,
though they have existed for a century, have never been imitated by any
country on earth, civilized or uncivilized, with the single exception of
Australia. It is these demands, which would not be held even as radical
in other countries, which Miss Sweet says cannot be accomplished without
violence. If this is so, it means that violence will come from above,
and the Socialists would be cowards indeed if they were not ready to
resist it.

Miss Sweet contends that "to bring about the first practical
experiments" demanded by Socialism "would start such a civil war as the
world has never yet seen in all its long history."[287] No doubt the
writer, who has held a responsible position with the Civic Federation
for years, represents the opinions of her associates. Her prediction may
be correct, and if so it would indicate that the people who at present
control this country and its government, and who have the power to
initiate such a civil war, are determined to do so.

While Socialists have no desire for revolutionary violence, being
convinced, as they are, that the present generation will see the
majority of the voters of every modern country in their ranks, and
Socialists by right in possession of the legal powers of government,
they nevertheless have never been blind to the readiness of the
plutocratic and militaristic forces in control of governments to proceed
to illegal _coups d'état_, to destroy all vestiges of democracy, if
thought necessary, and to use every form of violence, as soon as they
feel that they are beginning to lose their political power. The evidence
that this is already the intention is abundant.

There is no one who has recognized more clearly than the recent
"Socialistic" Prime Minister of France (Briand) that the ruling classes
force the people to fight for every great advance. In the French
Socialist Congress of Paris, in 1899, Briand said: "Now I must reply to
those of my friends who through an instinctive horror of every kind of
violence have been brought to hope that the transformation of society
can be the work of evolution alone.... Such certainly are beautiful
dreams, but they are only dreams.... In a general way, in every
instance, history demonstrates that the people have scarcely obtained
anything except what they have been able to take for themselves.... It
is not through a fad, and much less through the love of violence, that
our party is and must remain revolutionary, but by necessity, one might
say by destiny.... In our Congress we have even pointed out forms of
revolt, among the first of which are the general strike." In the
International Congress at Paris in 1900, Briand again advocated the
general strike on the ground that it was "necessary as a pressure on
capitalistic society, indispensable for obtaining continued
ameliorations of a political and economic kind, and also, under
propitious circumstances, for the purposes of social revolution." Nor
can there be any doubt as to the revolutionary meaning of Briand when he
advocated the general strike. In 1899 he had said, "One can discuss a
strike of soldiers, one can even try to make ready for it ... our young
military Socialists busy themselves in making the workingman who is
going to quit his shop, and the peasant who is going to desert his
fields to go into the barracks, understand that there are duties higher
than those discipline would like to impose upon them." I have already
quoted his recommendation, made on this occasion, that in the case of a
social crisis the soldiers might fire, but need not necessarily fire in
the direction suggested by the officers. As late as 1903 he took up the
defense of Gustave Hervé, when the latter was accused of
anti-militarism, and said before the court: "I am glad to declare that I
am not led here by a chance client, I am not here to-day as an advocate
pleading for his clients. I am here in a complete and full community of
ideas with friends, for whom it is less important that I should defend
their liberty, than that I should explain and justify their thought and
their writings."

There can be no question that the opinions expressed by Briand at this
time are approximately those of the majority of the European Socialists
to-day. Some of the leading spokesmen of the Socialists are no doubt
somewhat more cautious of the form of their statements. But the
modifications they would make in Briand's statement would be due, not to
any objection in principle, but to expediency and the practical
limitations of such measures as he advocates in each given case.

The great majority of Socialists feel that a premature revolutionary
crisis at the present moment would endanger or postpone the success of a
political revolution, peaceful or otherwise, when the time for it is
ripe. The position of Kautsky will show how very cautious the most
influential are. The movement has become so strong in Germany that it
might be supposed that the German Socialists would no longer fear a test
of strength. But this is not the case. They feel, on the contrary that
every delay is in their favor, as they are making colossal strides in
their organization and propaganda, while the political situation is
becoming more and more critical.


"Our recruiting ground," says Kautsky, "to-day includes fully three
fourths of the population, probably even more; the number of votes
that are given to us do not equal one third of all the voters and
not one fourth of all those entitled to vote. But the rate of
progress increases with a leap when the revolutionary spirit is
abroad. It is almost inconceivable with what rapidity the mass of
the people reach a clear consciousness of their class interests at
such a time. Not alone their courage and their belligerency, but
their political interest as well, is spurred on in the highest
degree through the consciousness that the hour has at last come for
them to burst out of the darkness of night into the glory of the
full glare of the sun. Even the laziest become industrious, even
the most cowardly become brave, and even the most narrow gains a
wider view. In such times a single year will accomplish an
education of the masses that would otherwise have required a
generation."[288]


Kautsky's conception of the probable struggle of the future shows that,
together with the millions of Socialists he represents, he expects the
great crisis to develop gradually out of the present-day struggle. He
does not expect a precipitate and comparatively brief struggle like the
French Revolution, but rather "long-drawn-out civil wars, if one does
not necessarily give to these words the idea of actual slaughter and
battles."

"We are revolutionists," Kautsky concludes, "and this is not in the
sense that a steam engine is a revolutionist. The social transformation
for which we are striving can be attained only through a political
revolution, by means of the conquest of political power by the fighting
proletariat. The only form of the State in which Socialism can be
realized is that of a republic, and a thoroughly democratic republic at
that.

"The Socialist Party is a revolutionary party, but not a
revolution-making party. We know that our goal can be obtained only
through a revolution. We also know that it is just as little in our
power to create this revolution as it is in the power of our opponents
to prevent it."[289]

The influential French Socialist, Guesde, agrees with Kautsky that a
peaceful solution is highly improbable, and that the revolution must be
one of an overwhelming majority of the people, not artificially created,
but brought about by the ruling classes themselves.

Of course a peaceful revolution might be accomplished gradually and by
the most orderly means. If, however, these peaceful and legal means are
later made illegal, or widely interfered with, if the ballot is
qualified or political democracy otherwise thwarted, or if the peaceful
acts of labor organizations, with the extension of government ownership,
are looked upon as mutiny or treason,--then undoubtedly the working
people will regard as enemies those who attempt to legalize such
reaction, and will employ all available means to overthrow a
"government" of such a kind.

From Marx and Bebel none of the most prominent spokesmen of the
international movement have doubted that the capitalists would use such
violent and extreme measures as to create a world-wide
counter-revolution, and began to make their preparations accordingly.
This is why, half a century ago, they passed beyond mere "revolutionary
talk," to "revolutionary action." This practical "revolutionary
evolution," as he called it, was described by Marx (in resigning from a
communist society) in 1851: "We say to the working people, 'You will
have to go through ten, fifteen, fifty years of _civil wars and wars
between nations_ not only to change existing conditions, but to _change
yourselves and to make yourselves worthy of political power_.'" (My
italics.)

"Revolutionary evolution" means that Socialists expect, not a single
crisis, but a long-drawn-out series of revolutionary, political, civil,
and industrial conflicts.



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Keywords: struggle, single, evolution, social, society, change, to-day, represents, practical, otherwise
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