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The introduction of the initiative and referendum is,
therefore, not to be striven for everywhere and under all
circumstances, but only in those places where certain conditions
are fulfilled.

"Among these conditions precedent we reckon, above all, the
preponderance of the city population over that of the country--a
condition which at the present moment has only been reached in
England. A further condition precedent is a highly developed
political party life which has taken hold of the great masses of
the population, so that the tendency of direct legislation to break
up parties and to bridge over party opposition are no more to be

"But the weightiest condition precedent is the lack of an
overwhelmingly centralized governmental power, standing
independently against the people's representatives."[238] (My

The first condition mentioned I have discussed in the previous chapter;
the second indicates that Kautsky, speaking for many German Socialists,
for the present at least, puts party above democracy.

The industrial proletariat is supposed to have the mission of saving
society. Even when it is not politically "self-conscious," or educated
to see the great rôle it must play in the present and future
transformation of society, it is supposed that it is _compelled_
ultimately "by the logic of events" to fill this rôle and attempt the
destruction of capitalism and the socialization of capital. This
prediction may _ultimately_ prove true, but time is the most vital
element in any calculation, and Kautsky himself acknowledges that the
industrial proletariat "had existed a long time before giving any
indication of its independence," and that during all this long period
"no militant proletariat was in existence."

The chief practical reason for relying so strongly on the industrial
wage earners as stated by Bebel and other Socialists is undoubtedly that
"the proletariat increases more and more until it forms the overwhelming
majority of the nation." No doubt, in proportion as this tendency
exists, the importance of gathering certain parts of the middle class
into the movement becomes less and less, and the statement quoted, if
strongly insisted upon, even suggests a readiness to attempt to get
along entirely without these elements. The figures of the Census
indicate that in this country, at least, we are some time from the point
when the proletariat will constitute even a bare majority, and that it
is not likely to form an overwhelming majority for decades to come. But
the European view is common here also.

The moderate Vandervelde also says that the Socialist program has been
"formulated by or for the workingmen of large-scale industry."[239] This
may be true, but we are not as much interested to know who formulated
the program of the movement as to understand its present aim. Its aim,
it is generally agreed, is to organize into a single movement all
anti-capitalistic elements, all those who want to abolish capitalism,
those exploited classes that are not too crushed to revolt, those whose
chief means of support is socially useful labor and not the ownership of
capital or possession of some privileged position or office. In this
movement it is generally conceded by Socialists that the workingmen of
industry play the central part. But they are neither its sole origin nor
is their welfare its sole aim.

The best known of the Socialist critics of Marxism, Edward Bernstein,
shares with some of Marx's most loyal disciples in this excessive
idealization of the industrial working class. Indeed, he says, with more
truth than he realizes, that in proportion as revolutionary Marxism is
relegated to the background it is necessary to affirm more sharply the
class character of the Party. That is to say, if a Socialist Party
abandons the principles of Socialism, then the only way it can be
distinguished from other movements is by the fact that it embraces other
elements of the population, that it is a class movement. But Socialism
is something more than this, it is a class movement of a certain
definite character, composed of classes that are naturally selected and
united, owing to certain definite characteristics.

"The social democracy," says Bernstein, "can become the people's party,
but only in the sense that the workingmen form the _essential_ kernel
around which are grouped social elements having identical interests....
Of all the social classes opposed to the capitalist class, the working
class _alone_ represents an invincible factor of social progress," and
social democracy "addresses itself principally to the workers." (My

Perhaps the most orthodox Socialist organ in America, and the ablest
representative in this country of the international aspects of the
movement (the _New Yorker Volkszeitung)_, insists that "the Socialist
movement consists in the fusion of the Socialist doctrine with the labor
movement and in nothing else," and says that students and even doctors
have little importance for the Party. The less orthodox but more
revolutionary _Western Clarion_, the Socialist organ of British
Columbia, where the Socialists form the chief opposition party in the
legislature, asserts boldly, "We have no leaning towards democracy; all
we want is a short supply of working-class autocracy."

Some of the ultra-revolutionists have gone so far in their hostility to
all social classes that do not work with their hands, that they have
completed the circle and flown into the arms of the narrowest and least
progressive of trade unionists--the very element against which they had
first reacted. The Western Socialist, Thomas Sladden, throwing into one
single group all the labor organizations from the most revolutionary to
the most conservative, such as the railway brotherhoods, says that all
"are in reality part of the great Socialist movement," and claims that
whenever "labor" goes into politics, this also is a step towards
Socialism, though Socialist principles are totally abandoned. Mayor
McCarthy of San Francisco, for instance, satisfied his requirements.
"McCarthy declares himself a friend of capital," says Sladden, but, he
asks defiantly, "Does any sane capitalist believe him?" Here we see one
of the most revolutionary agitators becoming more and more "radical"
until he has completed the circle and come back, not only to "labor
right or wrong," but even to "labor working in harmony with capital."

"The skilled workingman," he says, "is not a proletarian. He has an
interest to conserve, he has that additional skill for which he receives
compensation in addition to his ordinary labor power."

Mr. Sladden adds that the _real_ proletarian is "uncultured and uncouth
in appearance," that he has "no manners and little education," and that
his religion is "the religion of hate." Of course this is a mere
caricature of the attitude of the majority of Socialists.

Some of the partisans of revolutionary unionism in this country are
little less extreme. The late Louis Duchez, for example, reminds us that
Marx spoke of the proletariat as "the lowest stratum of our present
society," those "who have nothing to lose but their chains," and that he
said that "along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates
of capital who usurp and monopolize all the advantages of this process
of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery,
degradation, exploitation; but with this, too, grows the revolt of the
working class." It is true that Marx said these things and said them
with emphasis. But he did not wish to make any rigid or dogmatic
definition of "the proletariat" and much that he has said pointed to an
entirely different conception than would be gained from these

In speaking of "the lowest stratum of society" Marx was thinking, not of
a community divided into numerous strata, but chiefly of three classes,
the large capitalists, the workers, and the middle class. It was the
lowest of these three, and not the lowest of their many subdivisions,
that he had in mind. From the first the whole Socialist movement has
recognized the almost complete hopelessness, as an aid to Socialism, of
the lowest stratum in the narrow sense, of what is called the "lumpen
proletariat," the bulk of the army of beggars and toughs. Mr. Duchez
undoubtedly would have accepted this point, for he wishes to say that
the Socialist movement must be advanced by the organization of unions
not among this class, but among the next lowest, economically speaking,
the great mass of unskilled workers. This argument, also, that the
unskilled have a better strategic position than the skilled on account
of their solidarity and unity is surely a doubtful one. European
Socialists, as a rule, have reached the opposite conclusion, namely,
that it is the comparatively skilled workers, like those of the
railways, who possess the only real possibility of leading in a general
strike movement (see Chapters V and VI).


[234] H. G. Wells, "This Misery of Boots," p. 34.

[235] Oscar Wilde, "The Soul of Man under Socialism", (brochure).

[236] Bernard Shaw's series in the _New Age_ (1908).

[237] Karl Kautsky, the _New York Call_, Nov. 14, 1909.

[238] Karl Kautsky, "Parlamentarismus und Demokratie," pp. 124, 125,

[239] Émile Vandervelde, "Le Socialisme Agraire," p. 236.



One of the grounds on which it is proposed by some Socialists to give
manual labor a special and preferred place in the movement is that it is
supposed to be the only numerically important non-capitalist element
that is at all well organized or even organizable. Let us see, then, to
what degree labor is organized and what are the characteristics of this

First, the labor unions represent manual wage earners almost
exclusively--not by intention, but as a matter of fact. They include
only an infinitesimal proportion of small employers, self-employing
artisans, or salaried employees.

Second, the unions by no means include all the manual wage earners, and
only in a few industries do they include a majority.

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Keywords: country, earners, population, speaking, workingmen, supposed, sladden, precedent, stratum, proportion
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