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The phrases of
Socialism have become so popular that their popularity constitutes its
chief danger. At a time when so many professed anti-Socialists are
agreeing with the New York _Independent_ that, though it is easy to have
too much Socialism, at least "we want _more_" than we have, it becomes
exceedingly difficult for non-Socialists to learn what Socialism is and
to distinguish it from innumerable reform movements.

Less than a decade ago the pros and cons of Socialism were much
debated. Now it is usually only a question of Socialism sooner or later,
more or less. Socialism a century or two hence, or in supposed
installments of a fraction of a per cent, is an almost universally
popular idea. For the Socialists this necessitates a revolutionary
change in their tactics, literature, and habit of thought. They were
formerly forced to fight those who could not find words strong enough to
express their hostility; they are rapidly being compelled to give their
chief attention to those who claim to be friends. The day of mere
repression is drawing to a close, the day of cajolery is at hand.

Liebknecht saw what was happening years ago, and, in one of the most
widely circulated pamphlets the Socialists have ever published (_No
Compromise_), issued an impressive warning to the movement:--


"The enemy who comes to us with an open visor we face with a smile;
to set our feet upon his neck is mere play for us. The stupidly
brutal acts of violence of police politicians, the outrages of
anti-Socialist laws, penitentiary bills--these only arouse feelings
of pitying contempt; the enemy, however, that reaches out the hand
to us for a political alliance, and intrudes himself upon us as a
friend and a brother,--_him and him alone have we to fear_.

"Our fortress can withstand every assault--it cannot be stormed nor
taken from us by siege--it can only fall _when we ourselves open
the doors to the enemy and take him into our ranks as a fellow
comrade_."


"We shall almost never go right," says Liebknecht, "if we do what our
enemies applaud." And we find, as a matter of fact, that the enemies of
Socialism never fail to applaud any tendency of the party to compromise
those acting principles that have brought it to the point it has now
reached. For Liebknecht shows that the power which now causes a
Socialist alliance to be sought after in some countries even by
Socialism's most bitter enemies would never have arisen had the party
not clung closely to its guiding principle, the policy of "no
compromise."

There is no difficulty in showing, from the public life and opinion of
our day, how widespread is this spirit of political compromise or
opportunism; nor in proving that it enters into the conduct of many
Socialists. Such an opposition to the effective application of broad and
far-sighted plans to practical politics is especially common, for
historical reasons, in Great Britain and the United States. In this
country it has been especially marked in Milwaukee from the earliest
days of the Socialist movement there. In 1893 the _Milwaukee Vorwaerts_
announced that "if you demand too much at one time you are likely not to
get anything," and that "nothing more ought to be demanded but what is
attainable at a given time and under given circumstances."[99] It will
be noticed that this is a clear expression of a principle of action
diametrically opposite to that adopted by the international movement as
stated by Bebel and Liebknecht. Socialists are chiefly distinguished
from the other parties by the fact that they concentrate their attention
on demands beyond "what is attainable at a given time and under given
circumstances." They might _attempt_ to distinguish themselves by
claiming that they stand for the _ultimate_ goal of Socialism, though
their immediate program is the same as that of other parties, but any
politician can do that--as has been shown recently by the action of
Briand, Millerand, Ferri, and other former Socialists in France and
Italy--and the day seems near when hosts of politicians will follow
their example.

Any static or dogmatic definition of Socialism, like any purely
idealistic formulation, no matter how revolutionary or accurate it may
be, necessarily invites purely opportunist methods. A widely accepted
static definition declares that Socialism is "the collective ownership
of the means of production and distribution under democratic
management." As an ultimate ideal or a theory of social evolution, this
is accepted also by many collectivist opponents of Socialism, and may
soon be accepted generally. The chief possibility for a difference of
opinion among most practical persons, whether Socialists or not, must
come from the questions: How soon? By what means?

Evidently such a social revolution is to be achieved only by stages.
What are these stages? Many are tempted to give the easy answer, "More
and more collectivism and more and more democracy." But progress in
political democracy, if it came first, might be accompanied by an
artificial revival of small-scale capitalism, and a new majority made up
largely of contented farmer capitalists might put Socialism farther off
than it is to-day. Similarly, if installments of collectivism came
first, they might lead us in the direction of the Prussia of to-day. And
finally, even a combination of democracy and collectivism, up to a
certain point, might produce a majority composed in part of small
capitalists and favored government employees. Collectivist democracy
completed or far advanced would insure the coming of Socialism. But a
policy that merely gave us _more_ collectivism plus _more_ democracy,
might carry us equally well either towards Socialism or in the opposite
direction. The ultimate goal of present society does not give us a
ready-made plan of action by a mathematical process of dividing its
attainment into so many mechanical stages.

A very similar political shibboleth, often used by Party Socialists, is
"Let the nation own the trusts." Let us assume that the constitution of
this country were made as democratic as that of Australia or
Switzerland, and the suffrage made absolutely universal (as to adults).
Let us assume, moreover, that the "trusts," including railways, public
service corporations, banks, mines, oil, and lumber interests, the
steel-making and meat-packing industries, and the few other important
businesses where monopolies are established, were owned and operated by
governments of this character. Taken together with the social and labor
reforms that would accompany such a régime, this would be "State
Socialism," but it would not _necessarily_ constitute even a _step
towards_ Socialism--and this for two reasons.

The industries mentioned employ probably less than a third of the
population, and, even if we add other government employments, the total
would be little more than a third. The majority of the community would
still be divided among the owners or employees of the competitive
manufacturing establishments, stores, farms, etc.,--and the professional
classes. With most of these the struggle of Capital and Labor would
continue and, since they are in a majority, would be carried over into
the field of government, setting the higher paid against the more poorly
paid employees, as in the Prussia of to-day.

And, secondly, even if we supposed that a considerable part or all of
the government employees received what they felt to be, on the whole, a
fair treatment from the government, and if these, together with
shopkeepers, farm owners, or lessees, and satisfied professional and
salaried men, made up a majority, we would still be as far as ever from
a social, economic, or industrial democracy. What we would have would be
a class society, based on a purely political democracy, and
economically, on a partly private (or individualist) and partly public
(or collectivist) capitalism.

"Equal opportunities for all" would also mean Socialism. But equal
opportunities for a limited number, no matter if that number be much
larger than at present, may merely strengthen capitalism by drawing the
more able of the workers away from their class and into the service of
capitalism. Or opportunities _more_ equal for all, without a complete
equalization, may merely increase the competition of the lower classes
for middle-class positions and so secure to the capitalists cheaper
professional service. So-called steps towards equal opportunities, even
if rapid enough to produce a very large surplus of trained applicants
for whom capitalism fails to provide and so increase the army of
malcontents, may simply delay the day of Socialism.

I have spoken of Socialists whose underlying object is opportunistic--to
obtain immediate results in legislation no matter how unrelated they may
be to Socialism. Others are impelled either by an inactive idealism, or
by attachment to abstract dogma for its own sake. Their custom is in the
one instance to make the doctrine so rigid that it has no immediate
application, and in the other to "elevate the ideal" so high, to remove
it so far into the future, that it is scarcely visible for the
present-day purposes, and then to declare that present-day activity,
even if theoretically subject to an ideal or a doctrine, must be guided
also by quite other and "practical" principles, which are never clearly
defined and sometimes are scarcely mentioned. Mr. Edmond Kelly, for
instance, puts his "Collectivism Proper," or Socialism, so far into the
future that he is forced to confess that it will be attained only
"ultimately," or perhaps not at all, while "Partial Collectivism may
prove to be the last stage consistent with human imperfection."[100] He
acknowledges that this Partial Collectivism ("State Socialism") is not
the ideal, and it is evident that his ideal is too far ahead or too
rigid or theoretical, to have any connection with the ideals of the
Socialist movement, which arise exclusively out of actual life.

This opportunism defends itself by an appeal to the "evolutionary"
argument, that progress must necessarily be extremely slow.



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Keywords: action, practical, to-day, professional, socialist, capitalists, purely, collectivist, accepted, necessarily
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