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I, therefore,
quote his statement at length, as the most competent estimate obtainable
of the present situation as regards reformism in the American Socialist
movement:--


"The danger I see ahead," wrote Mr. Debs, "is that the Socialist
Party at this stage, and under existing conditions, is apt to
attract elements which it cannot assimilate, and that it may be
either weighted down, or torn asunder with internal strife, or that
it may become permeated and corrupted with the spirit of bourgeois
reform to an extent that will practically destroy its virility and
efficiency as a revolutionary organization.

"To my mind the working-class character and the revolutionary
integrity of the Socialist Party are of the first importance. _All
the votes of the people would do us no good if our party ceased to
be a revolutionary party or became only incidentally so, while
yielding_ more and more to the pressure to modify the principles
and program of the Party for the sake of swelling the vote and
hastening the day of its expected triumph.... The truth is that we
have not a few members who regard vote getting as of supreme
importance, no matter by what method the votes may be secured, and
this leads them to hold out inducements and make representations
which are not at all compatible with the stern and uncompromising
principles of a revolutionary party. They seek to make the
Socialist propaganda so attractive--eliminating whatever may give
offense to bourgeois sensibilities--that it serves as a bait for
votes rather than as a means of education, and _votes thus secured
do not properly belong to us and do injustice to our Party as well
as those who cast them_.... The election of legislative and
administrative officers, here and there where the Party is still in
a crude state and the members economically unprepared and
politically unfit to assume the responsibilities thrust upon them
as the result of popular discontent, will inevitably bring trouble
and set the Party back, instead of advancing it, and while this is
to be expected and is to an extent unavoidable, we should court no
more of that kind of experience than is necessary to avoid a
repetition of it. The Socialist Party has already achieved some
victories of this kind which proved to be defeats, crushing and
humiliating, and from which the party has not even now, after many
years, entirely recovered [referring, doubtless, to Haverhill and
Brockton.--W. E. W.].

"Voting for Socialism is not Socialism any more than a menu is a
meal....

"The votes will come rapidly enough from now on without seeking
them, and we should make it clear that the Socialist Party wants
the votes only of those who want Socialism, and that, above all, as
a revolutionary party of the working class, it discountenances vote
seeking for the sake of votes and holds in contempt office seeking
for the sake of office. These belong entirely to capitalist parties
with their bosses and their boodle and have no place in a party
whose shibboleth is emancipation."[146] (My italics.)


After Mr. Debs, Mr. Charles Edward Russell is now, perhaps, the most
trusted of American Socialists. His statement, made a few months later
(see the _International Socialist Review_ for March, 1912), reaches
identical conclusions. As it is made from the entirely independent
standpoint of the observations of a practical journalist as to political
methods, it strongly reŽnforces and supplements Mr. Debs's conclusions,
drawn chiefly from labor union experience. As I have already quoted Mr.
Russell at length in the previous chapter, a few paragraphs will give a
sufficient idea of this important declaration:--


"Let us suppose in this country," writes Mr. Russell, "a political
party with a program that proposes a great and radical
transformation of the existing system of society, and proposes it
upon lofty grounds of the highest welfare of mankind. Let us
suppose that it is based upon vital and enduring truth, and that
the success of its ideals would mean the emancipation of the race.

"If such a party should go into the dirty game of practical
politics, seeking success by compromise and bargain, striving to
put men into office, dealing for place and recognition, concerned
about the good opinion of its enemies, elated when men spoke well
of it, depressed by evil report, tacking and shifting, taking
advantage of a local issue here and of a temporary unrest there,
intent upon the goal of this office or that, it would inevitably
fall into the pit that has engulfed all other parties. Nothing on
earth could save it.

"But suppose a party that kept forever in full sight the ultimate
goal, and never once varied from it. Suppose that it strove to
increase its vote for this object and for none other.... Suppose it
regarded its vote as the index of its converts, and sought for such
votes and for none others. Suppose the entire body was convinced of
the party's full program, aims, and philosophy. Suppose that all
other men knew that this growing party was thus convinced and thus
determined, and that its growth menaced every day more and more the
existing structure of society, menaced it with overthrow and a new
structure. What then?

"Such a party would be the greatest political power that ever
existed in this or any other country. It would drive the other
parties before it like sand before a wind. They would be compelled
to adopt one after another the expedients of reform to head off the
increasing threat of this one party's progress towards the
revolutionary ideal. But this one party would have no more need to
waste its time upon palliative measures than it would have to soil
itself with the dirt of practical politics and the bargain counter.
The other parties would do all that and do it well. The one party
would be concerned with nothing but making converts to its
philosophy and preparing for the revolution that its steadfast
course would render inevitable. Such a party would represent the
highest possible efficiency in politics, the greatest force in the
State, and the ultimate triumph of its full philosophy would be
beyond question."


Thus we see that in America reformism is regarded as a dangerous
innovation, and that, before it had finished its second prosperous year,
it had been abjured by those who have the best claim to speak for the
American Party. Nevertheless it still persists and, indeed, continues
to develop rapidly--if less rapidly than the opposite, or revolutionary,
policy--and deserves the most careful consideration.

While "reformism" only became a practical issue in the American Party in
_1910_, it had its beginnings much earlier. The Milwaukee Socialists had
set on the "reformist" course even before the formation of the present
national party (in 1900). Even at this early time they had developed
what the other Socialists had sought to avoid, a "leader"--in the
person of Mr. Victor Berger. At first editor of the local German
Socialist organ, the _Vorwaerts_, then of the _Social-Democratic
Herald_, acknowledged leader at the time of the municipal victory in the
spring of 1910, and now the American Party's first member of Congress,
Mr. Berger has not merely been the Milwaukee organization's chief
spokesman, organizer, and candidate throughout this period, but he has
come to be the chief spokesman of the present reformist wing of the
American Party. His editorials and speeches as Congressman, and the
policies of the Milwaukee municipal administration, now so much in the
public eye, will afford a fairly correct idea of the main features both
of the Socialism that has so far prevailed in Milwaukee, and of American
"reformism" in general.

"Socialism is an epoch of human history which will no doubt last many
hundred years, possibly a thousand years," wrote Mr. Berger,
editorially, in 1910. "Certainly a movement whose aims are spread out
over a period like that need have no terrors for the most conservative,"
commented Senator La Follette, with perhaps justifiable humor.

If Socialism is to become positive, said Mr. Berger again, it must
"conduct the everyday fight for the practical revolution of every day."
Like the word "Socialism," Mr. Berger retains the word "revolution," but
practically it comes to mean much the same as its antithesis, everyday
reform.

It has been Mr. Berger's declared purpose from the beginning to turn the
Milwaukee Party aside from the tactics of the International movement to
those of the "revisionist" minority that has been so thoroughly crushed
at the German and International Congresses. (See Chapter VII.) "The
tactics of the American Socialist Party," he wrote editorially in 1901,
"if that party is to live and succeed--can only be the much abused and
much misunderstood Bernstein doctrine."

"In America for the first time in history," he added, "we find an
oppressed class with the same fundamental rights as the ruling
class--the right of universal suffrage...."[147]

It was the impression of many of the earlier German Socialists in this
country that political democracy already existed in America and that it
was only necessary to make use of it to establish a new social order.
The devices the framers of our Constitution employed to prevent such an
outcome, the widespread distribution of property, especially of farms,
disfranchisement in the South and elsewhere, etc., were all considered
as small matters compared to the difficulties Socialists faced in
Germany and other countries. Many have come more recently to recognize,
with Mr. Louis Boudin, that the movement "will have to learn that in
this country, as in Germany or other alien lands, the fight is on not
only for the use of its power by the working class, but for the
possession of real political power by the masses of the people." Neither
in this country nor in any other does the oppressed class have "the same
fundamental rights as the ruling class." In America the working class
have not even an approximately equal right to the ballot, because of
local property, literacy, residence, and other qualifications, as
alluded to in an earlier chapter, and it is at least doubtful whether
the workers are in a more favorable position here than elsewhere to gain
final and effective control of the government without physical
revolution (as Mr.



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Keywords: russell, philosophy, party's, international, program, working, already, should, present, entirely
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