SOCIALISM was international. Its name as an organized movement, the Second International Workingmen’s Association, said so. Its anthem, “The International,” affirmed it and promised besides that “tomorrow the International will be the human race.” Its founding Congress of 1889 had as joint presidents a Frenchman and a German, Edouard Vaillant and Wilhelm Liebknecht. Its membership at its height represented the Socialist parties of thirty-three nations and would-be nations, including Germany, France, England, Austria, Hungary and Bohemia, Russia, Finland, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Serbia, Bulgaria, India, Japan, Australia and the United States. Its flag was a solid red representing the blood of Everyman. Its essential thesis was that the class solidarity of workingmen transcended national frontiers in a horizontal division of society. Its holiday set aside the first of May to demonstrate proletarian brotherhood. Its slogan was “Workers of the World, Unite!”
Whether or not miners, factory hands, farm labourers, servants and other members of the working class, in whose interest Socialism existed, felt themselves to be international, their leaders believed it, practiced it, counted on it. At the Amsterdam Socialist Congress which took place in 1904 during the Russo-Japanese War, the Russian and Japanese delegates, Plekhanov and Katayama, were seated side by side. When the two men clasped hands, all 450 delegates rose to their feet in a tribute of thunderous applause. When Plekhanov and Katayama each made a speech declaring that the war had been forced upon his country by capitalism and was not a matter of the Japanese people fighting the Russian people, they were listened to in “almost religious silence” and sat down amid cheers.
Socialism was equally predicated on the concept of class war and on its eventual outcome, the destruction of capitalism. It regarded both the ruling class and the bourgeoisie as the enemy. The sentiment was reciprocated. The word “Socialist” had a ring of blood and terror, like “Jacobin” of the old days. During the quarter century following its founding in Paris in 1889 on the hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution, the Second International inspired growing apprehension in the ruling class. Vienna was “paralyzed with fright” when Viktor Adler, the Austrian Socialist leader, called for a one-day general strike and mass demonstrations throughout the Empire on the first May Day to demonstrate the workers’ united strength. When Adler announced a workers’ parade down the chestnut-bordered Prater where usually only the carriages of the wealthy appeared, the rich and their allies trembled, expecting the rabble would set houses on fire, plunder shops, and commit unimaginable atrocities on their march. Merchants let down their iron shutters, parents forbade children to go out of doors, police were posted at every street corner, troops were held in reserve. The bourgeoisie saw spreading before their feet what Henry George had called in Progress and Poverty “the open-mouthed, relentless hell which yawns beneath civilized society.” They were made aware of the rising threat “of the House of Want upon the House of Have.”
When the Second International was founded, the twelve-hour day and seven-day week were normal for unorganized labour. Sunday rest and the ten- or nine-hour day were the hard-won privileges of skilled labour in the craft unions, which represented barely one-fifth of the labour force. In 1899 Edwin Markham, struck by the bent brute figure of Millet’s “Man with the Hoe,” expressed both society’s fear and responsibility in a poem named for the picture:
Through this dread shape humanity betrayed,
Plundered, profaned and disinherited,
Cries protest to the Judges of the World, A protest that is also prophecy.…
How will the Future reckon with this Man
How answer his brute question in that hour
When whirlwinds and rebellion shake the world?
How will it be with the kingdoms and the kings—
With those who shaped him to the thing he is—
When this dumb Terror shall reply to God
After the silence of the centuries?
In 1899, when poetry still spoke to the public, Markham’s poem caused a sensation. Newspapers throughout America reprinted it, editorials discussed it, clergymen used it as a text, school children studied it, debating societies debated it, and commentators called it “the cry of the zeitgeist” and, next to Kipling’s “Recessional,” the most “meaningful poem of the age.”
The public conscience which responded to an artist’s vision and a poet’s words was frightened and angry when confronted with the real thing. When in 1891 the textile workers of Fourmies, a small industrial town in northern France, organized a May Day demonstration for the eight-hour day, police charged their parade and in the ensuing melee killed ten people, including several children. “Take care!” warned Clemenceau in the Chamber. “The dead are strong persuaders. One must pay attention to the dead.… I tell you that the primary fact of politics today is the inevitable revolution which is preparing.… The Fourth Estate is rising and reaching for the conquest of power. One must take sides. Either you meet the Fourth Estate with violence or you welcome it with open arms. The moment has come to choose.”
There was little disposition toward open arms. When the Socialist leaders and unions of Belgium, after two previous bloody attempts, succeeded in 1893 in organizing a general strike for equal manhood suffrage, the essential precondition for the conquest of power, soldiers killed twelve before the strike ended. When the Pullman strike in the United States in 1894 stopped trains and the mail, Judge William Howard Taft of Cincinnati, far from a ferocious man, wrote to his wife, “It will be necessary for the military to kill some of the mob before the trouble can be stayed. They have only killed six … as yet. This is hardly enough to make an impression.” Here was the class war in operation.
Socialism’s ultimate aim was the abolition of private property and the redistribution of the world’s goods to provide everybody with enough. The goal was the same as that of Anarchism; what caused the permanent conflict between the two groups was that the Socialists believed in organization and political action to achieve it.
Collective ownership was the answer of both to the terrible riddle posed by the Nineteenth Century: that the greater the material progress, the wider and deeper the resulting poverty. Marx drew from the riddle the central theme of his system: that this inherent contradiction within capitalism would bring about its breakdown. He proved it from the economic analysis of history. The effect of the Industrial Revolution had been to transform the worker from an independent producer who owned his own tools into a factory hand, a propertyless, destitute member of society, dependent for his livelihood on the capitalist who owned the means of production. Through the capitalist’s accumulation of profits derived from the surplus value of the worker’s product, the exploiters were becoming richer and the exploited poorer. The process could only end in the violent collapse of the existing order. Trained in class consciousness and prepared for this event, the working class would, at the moment of ripeness, rise in revolution to usher in the new order.
This Marxian doctrine of Verelendung (pauperization, or increasing misery) and Zusammenbruch (collapse) was the religious formula of Socialism, equivalent to “God is One” of another religion. It afflicted Socialism and the labour movement with a chronic schism between the necessity of collapse and revolution on the one hand and the possibility of gradual reform of the existing order on the other. As a schism between the future Absolute and the present Possible, it was present from birth, when the founders of 1889 split into two Congresses over the issue whether to permit cooperation with the bourgeois political parties. The true Marxists accused the French Possibilists of lying in wait at the Paris railroad stations to lead unsuspecting delegates from the provinces to the wrong Congress. Throughout the next twenty-five years the schism affected every act, decision and formulation of policy in the working-class movement, dividing negotiated gains from uncompromising class war, pragmatists from theorists, trade unions from parliamentary parties, the workers themselves, who wanted improvements in wages, hours and safety today, from the leaders, who agitated in their behalf for political power tomorrow.
The Marxian premise built into Socialism a chronic dilemma as well as a schism. As a movement on behalf of the working class it needed working-class support, which could only be obtained by showing practical results. Yet every practical result slowed or arrested the process of impoverishment. When walking with a friend who reached in his pocket to give money to a beggar, Johannes Miquel, in his youth an ardent Socialist, stopped him, saying, “Don’t delay the Revolution!” This was the logical extreme of Marxism. Any reform inferred a common ground between the contesting classes; revolution assumed the absence of it. If there was no common ground, what then was the use of anything short of revolution? Orthodox Socialists skirted this gaping hole in the creed by contending that reforms should continue to be wrung from the possessing class in order to strengthen the workers for the final struggle. The several national parties always stated a minimum program of reforms to be obtained within the existing system and a maximum program for the destruction of capitalism and triumph of the class struggle. Increasingly the moderates, or “opportunists,” as their opponents called them, concentrated on the minimum program and the acquisition of political power necessary to put it through, while the orthodox refused to concede that any interim successes interfered with the truth of “increasing misery.”
On the final necessity of revolution the Socialist party programs were imprecise. They glossed over it both in order to appeal to the voters and because it remained a disputable point. Socialism was not a hard gemlike doctrine impervious to modification, but varied, depending on time, country, situation and faction. Whether or not a Socialist believed in revolution was largely a matter of temperament. For some it was “nothing if not revolution.” For others what counted was the Socialist millennium, however achieved. For the orthodox Marxist, in any case, collapse was ineluctable and Capitalism not a system to be modified but an Enemy to be destroyed, a living tyrant armed with the weapons of its class: courts, army, judges, legislature, police, injunctions, lockouts.
Property had lasted too long, filling the world with wickedness, turning men against each other. The time for overturn had come. The social evils produced by capitalism—poverty, ignorance, racial prejudice and war, which was just another form of capitalist exploitation—would be wiped out and replaced by social harmony. Freed from false patriotism, workingmen linked by their underlying brotherhood would no longer fight each other. Freed from the greeds and frustrations imposed by capitalism, every individual could pursue “the unimpaired development of his personality,” being guaranteed under the collective system sufficient means and liberty to achieve it.
As the chariot of a new and higher order of life, Socialism seemed to its advocates to carry a sacred trust and to impose upon them a moral duty to be worthy of the ideal. Because he believed drinking was disgracing and destroying the working classes, Viktor Adler adopted total abstinence to set a personal example. Socialism was the repository of the big words. When, as a student in Brussels, Angelica Balabanov, a young Russian revolutionary, listened to Socialist orators in the Belgian Parliament, “Parliament seemed to me then a sacred place where Science, Truth and Justice … were to conquer the forces of Tyranny and Oppression for the working class.”
The goal gave an excitement, a meaning, a glow to Socialist lives which for many of them substituted for the usual drives of personal ambition and profit. Party militants and organizers in the early days worked for nothing. Since there was no money in the movement, there could be no corruption. Since it could offer no livelihood or gain, its leaders tended to be idealists. It was a cause, not a career. It gave its disciples something to work for and infused a passion which could be understood across the barrier of language. At one Socialist Congress the Spanish leader Pablo Iglesias spoke so eloquently in his native tongue that although the audience did not understand a word, they burst into frequent applause. To the workers who increasingly voted for it, in millions after the turn of the century, Socialism gave self-respect and an identity. A workingman could feel himself no longer an ignored anonymous member of a herd but a citizen with a place in society and a political affiliation of his own. Unlike Anarchism, Socialism gave him a party to belong to and, since the nettle of revolution did not have to be grasped, an acceptable way to reach the goal instead of by way of the lawless deed.
The cause drew men like the Italian Amilcare Cipriani, one of the founders of the Congress of 1889. Type of the eternal rebel, he had fought with Garibaldi’s Red Shirts and as a volunteer in the Cretan insurrection against Turkey and turned up in Brussels to join the comrades in the general strike of 1893. “Magnificent in cape and soft felt hat, with black beard streaked with grey and eyes of flame,” he carried a handbag in which “there were doubtless more explosives than toilet articles … ready to fight in any corner of the world for the cause of Revolution.”
It drew men of troubled conscience from the upper class, like the American Robert Hunter, married to a daughter of the banker and philanthropist Anson Phelps Stokes. Like others of his class, Hunter was startled by the articles of the Muckrakers and moved to seek a remedy for social injustice. He saw his first vision of the poor in settlement-house work, discovered Socialism, and at the age of twenty-eight in 1904 wrote a small classic, Poverty. With the undulled emotion of his time he described a valley in Italy “so smiling and peaceful, with a thousand terraced gardens on its exquisite slopes, under skies that enrapture the soul; and with men, women and children whose faces with big eyes and sunken cheeks lacerate the heart.… Great God, is not the Valley of the Tirano all the school that Italy needs for Socialism?… The faces are with you when you eat and your food sickens you.… Any man with a heart would become a Socialist in Italy.”
Valleys of the Tirano in every country made Socialists out of intellectuals who saw them and workers who were born in them. What both had in common was faith that man had it in his power to make things better. The obstacles were massive; the House of Have was old and strong and entrenched. But the grievances of the working class were rising and were concerned as much with social inequality as with pure want. The workers resented disparity in suffrage, due to property qualifications. They resented the unequal working of compulsory military service, from which the privileged could be exempted; the bias of the law, which worked one way for the rich and another for the poor; the layers of hereditary privilege of all kinds, which the ruling class took for granted. Socialism was making the workers’ wants conscious and articulate. The apathy of the masses which had disillusioned Bakunin and caused Lassalle to rail at “the damned wantlessness of the poor” was passing. They were beginning to know what they wanted, though on the whole it was not revolution. Socialism’s inclusion of that goal was what gave it fervor and impetus, as in the case of Julius Braunthal, who joined the Austrian Socialist party at the age of fourteen “for the sake of the Revolution.” But revolution appealed more to intellectuals who had no doubt of their capacity to manage society than it did to the working class.
Like a crack in a plank of wood which cannot be sealed, the difference between the worker and the intellectual was ineradicable in Socialism. Organized Socialism bore the name Workingmen’s Association but in fact it was never any such thing. It was a movement not of, but on behalf of, the working class, and the distinction remained basic. Although it spoke for the worker and made his wants articulate, goals and doctrine were set, and thought, energy and leadership largely supplied by, intellectuals. The working class was both client and ultimately, in its mass strength, the necessary instrument of the overthrow of capitalism. As such it appeared as Hero; it was sentimentalized. In the illustrations for an English pamphlet commemorating the London Congress of 1896, the workingmen appeared as handsome strong-muscled Burne-Iones figures in smocks accompanied by indomitable women with long limbs and rippling hair. They were not the same race as Zola’s soiled figures, harsh, hungry, consumptive and alcoholic. The reality was neither all one thing nor the other; neither all lumpenproletariat nor curly-bearded, clenched-fisted revolutionist. The working class was no more of a piece than any other class. Socialist doctrine, however, required it to be an entity with a working-class mind, working-class voice, working-class will, working-class purpose. In fact, these were not easily ascertainable. The Socialist idealized them and to be idealized is to be overestimated.
Owing to its internal quarrels, the founding Congress of 1889 did not lay down a body of doctrine to which the member parties were obliged to subscribe. Agreement went no farther than four resolutions which established four objectives as proper Socialist aims short of the maximum program: the eight-hour day; universal equal manhood suffrage; substitution of citizens’ militias for standing armies; observance of May Day for a show of working-class strength.
While the first was the essential demand of the clientele, the second was fundamental to the whole Socialist purpose and program. The vote was the one means by which the masses could translate numbers into power; their only means to equalize the power of capital. For the same reason, the ruling class resisted it. Equal manhood suffrage at this date existed only in France and the United States, and only in national elections, not local government, in Germany. In most other countries the propertyless were disqualified or plural votes were given to taxpayers, university graduates and fathers of families. Socialists demanded the one-man-one-vote principle.
May Day, last of the four resolutions, was agreed on in response to a message from the American Federation of Labor, which planned to open its campaign for the eight-hour day on May 1, 1890. It was adopted at the suggestion of a French trade unionist, but the result was divisive because the Germans refused to commit themselves to a gesture likely to anger officialdom and evoke reprisals.
Nevertheless it was the Germans who spoke with most authority in the International. As the oldest and largest of the Socialist parties, the German party enjoyed the greatest prestige and, by virtue of the fact that Marx was a German, regarded itself as the Petrine rock, not to mention the Vatican, of Socialism. In 1890, released from the anti-Socialist law, it won 1,400,000 votes, nearly 20 per cent of the total, and thirty-five seats, in the elections for the Reichstag, a victory that dazed Socialists in the rest of the world. In practice, the German Social-Democratic party, as a result of its successes among the voters and its close ties with the trade unions, adapted itself to the possible. In theory it remained stoutly Marxist and at its Erfurt Congress in 1891 restated the Marxian view of history as official.
The Erfurt Program reaffirmed that the middle class, small businessmen and farmers, were being squeezed out, sinking along with the proletariat into increasing misery, and that the greater the masses grew in number, increasing the pool of labour, the sharper became the division between exploiters and exploited. Since the ultimate solution of public ownership could only be accomplished through the conquest of political power, the program of the party must be to gain political control, using trade unions as the source of votes but maintaining direction of policy in the party.
The Erfurt order for political action stamped its image upon the Second International, though not without the furious resistance of the Anarchists and their friends whose split with the Marxists on this issue had broken up the First International. Although not invited to the Congress of Zurich in 1893, the Anarchists arrived anyway, whereat August Bebel, the German chairman, a master of Marxian abuse, harangued them for having “neither program nor principles.” In Zurich, “accustomed to German methods,” he had no difficulty in having them expelled by force. In protest against such methods, Amilcare Cipriani resigned as a delegate. The Anarchists retired to conduct a diminutive counter-Congress in a café while the majority unanimously adopted a resolution recognizing the “necessity of organizing the workers for political action.” Only those parties and groups accepting this principle could henceforth call themselves Socialists and take part in Congresses of the International. Not wishing to cut themselves off from their foundations, they made an exception for trade unions, which in future were to be admitted without being required to subscribe to the political principle. According to the Belgian delegate Emile Vandervelde, these difficult problems were solved in an atmosphere of “profound calm.” It seemed anything but calm to a young British trade-union delegate, J. R. Clynes of the cotton workers, who had never been abroad before. He was astonished at the “verbal orgies” and violence of the Latin and Slav delegates and at the flareups of hostility in which one delegate flourished a knife and “everyone was yelling and struggling.” Among Socialists, human bellicosity found its vent in factionalism whose vehemence Clynes tactlessly ascribed to “national rivalries and hatreds growing out of past wars.”
Going for a swim in the Lake of Zurich Clynes saw “a ruddy beard on the surface of the water floating gently towards me” which proved to be attached to Bernard Shaw, also a delegate to the Congress, representing the Fabian Society. Having already discounted Marx and revolution, Shaw did not spare his contempt, in his reports of the Congress, for Wilhelm Liebknecht’s duping of his followers with the “rhetoric of the barricade.” The German leaders, he decided thereafter, were forty years out of date. At sixty-seven, Liebknecht, founder of the party in 1875, was now its elder statesman. Descended from a long line of university professors reaching back to the Eighteenth Century, he had been imprisoned for his role in the bourgeois revolution of 1848, and afterwards lived in exile in England for thirteen years, where he studied with Marx. When he died in 1900 a crowd of an estimated hundred thousand mourners and spectators lined the streets along the route of his four-hour funeral procession.
By all but Shaw the German party was considered the hope of Socialism, bearer of the torch in the country from which Marx expected revolution to come. Everyone was impressed by its size and strength, its wonderful organization, its twenty-eight secretaries and organizers, its training program for party workers, and its mounting membership. In the elections of 1893 the Social-Democrats increased their votes to 1,750,000, close to 25 per cent of the total, more than those of any other single party. Since it was against principle to join forces with any bourgeois party, the Social-Democrats in the Reichstag remained, despite their numbers, a relatively impotent group in what was in any case an impotent body. The fact of their existence, however, exerted a silent pressure which made the Government more reasonable toward concessions. The Kaiser, who in the first careless rapture of his dismissal of Bismarck had lifted the anti-Socialist law in 1890, recovered quickly. By 1895 he had decided that the Social-Democrats were a “gang of traitors” who “do not deserve the name of Germans” and by 1897 that the party “which does not stop attacking the person of the All-Highest Ruler must be rooted out to the last stump.” In 1895 Liebknecht was arrested on a charge of lèse-majesté for a speech of which Shaw said that it could have been made “by Mr. Arthur Balfour to the Primrose League tomorrow with the approbation of England.” But this was no special mark of repression, since it could happen to anyone in Germany.
National tended to outweigh class traits among the German Socialists: they were more obedient than bold. For all its size the party did not venture to play host to an International Socialist Congress on German soil until 1907. Despite fiery speeches its leaders were prudent in action; they restricted May Day demonstrations to the evening so as not to interfere with work. Work stoppage, said Liebknecht, was general strike and “a general strike is general nonsense.” In Munich no May Day demonstration was permitted until 1901 and then only on condition that it took place outside city limits and did not form crowds in the streets on the way. Columns of Socialists, “their pockets bulging with radishes,” accompanied by wives and children, marched briskly in dead silence through the city to a beer garden on the outskirts where they drank beer and munched their radishes and struck a Russian exile as “not at all resembling a May Day celebration of working-class triumph.”
They were better off, however, than any Russian worker. Under the heavy throb of German industrial expansion, employment was increasing faster than the population. Unions, under these conditions, were successful in raising wages. Social legislation, originally bestowed from above by Bismarck to weld labour to his state, was the most advanced of any country. By 1903, 18,000,000 workers were insured against accident, 13,000,000 against old age and 11,000,000 against illness, with a total annual expenditure of $100,000,000 in social welfare benefits. Laws regulated wages, hours, time off, grievance procedures, safety measures, and the number of factory windows and toilets. With characteristic thoroughness Germany’s rulers wanted to ensure physical efficiency, leaving as little as possible to chance and bringing everything possible under orderly rule. Professor Delbrück in 1897 publicly supported the right of collective bargaining on the ground that labour peace was necessary for national unity and national defense. To keep labour quiet by judicious concessions was considered the best method of smothering the Social-Democrats, whom the possessing class regarded with increasing enmity and fear.
August Bebel, the party’s dictator, was believed by the bourgeoisie to be a kind of “shadow-Kaiser.” A small-boned, narrow little man with white hair and goatee, he had been born in a barracks in 1840, the same year as Czar Reed. His father was an Army corporal and his mother a domestic servant. Taking up the carpenter’s trade, he had joined the labour movement in the days of Lassalle; and on a charge of incitement to treason had been sentenced to four years in prison, a punishment fruitful in producing Socialists. In prison Bebel read much, received visits from Liebknecht and wrote a magisterial history of Woman and Socialism. His brains, Mommsen said, if divided among a dozen Junkers from east of the Elbe, were enough to make each of them shine among his peers. In the Reichstag, where he had debated Bismarck in “savage accents,” Bebel was the spokesman of poverty and misery, loved and admired by the workers, who felt him to be a comrade. He would remain “the deadly enemy of this bourgeois society and this political order” until it was destroyed, he proclaimed at a party Congress in 1903. This was traditional verbiage. In fact, Bebel had no great illusions about the mass of his followers. “Look at those fellows,” he said in 1892 to a correspondent of the London Times as they watched a march of a battalion of Prussian Guards; “80 per cent of them are Berliners and Social-Democrats but if there was trouble they would shoot me down at a word of command from above.”
Of the outstanding figures of the Second International only he and Keir Hardie were of working-class origin. Karl Kautsky, fourteen years younger than Bebel, thinker and writer of the party and formulator of the Erfurt Program, whose commentaries on doctrine provided the text of endless discussion, was the son of intellectuals, a painter and a novelist. Viktor Adler of Austria was a doctor, Emile Vandervelde was the son of wealthy parents whom he described as “models of bourgeois virtue,” and Jaurès of France came from the petty bourgeoisie.
As a doctor, Adler knew the human damage caused by undernourishment, overwork and squalor. He wanted to lead the workers to a new existence of “health, culture, liberty and dignity.” Born of a wealthy Jewish family of Prague, he had studied medicine in order to treat the poor. Dressed in rags like a bricklayer, he investigated conditions in the Viennese brickyards where workers lived in company barracks guarded like prisons, five or six families to a dormitory room, and were paid in chits valid only in company stores. Before founding the Austrian party in 1889 he traveled in Germany, England and Switzerland to study workers’ lives and social legislation which might be introduced in Austria. He was a short, scraggy, rather fragile figure with bushy hair and moustache, gold-rimmed spectacles, a pale face and one shoulder bent forward. Next to music he loved Ibsen and Shelley. Accepting revolution as the ultimate goal, he believed interim reforms were necessary in order to fit the worker physically and intellectually for his destiny. The struggle to secure these reforms against that “despotism mitigated by slovenliness,” as he described the Hapsburg regime, was often discouraging and gradually wore down the edge of Adler’s faith. Trotsky, who knew him in the early 1900’s, found him a skeptic who had come to tolerate everything and adapt himself to everything.
In Belgium, whose population was the densest in Europe and where the process of industrialization had been fierce and rapid, the life of the working class was, in the words of one observer, an “inferno.” Textile factories, steel mills, mines, quarries, docks and wharves used up labour as a mill grinds grain. Twenty-five per cent of all workers earned less than the equivalent of forty cents a day; another 25 per cent earned between forty and sixty cents. An investigation in Brussels showed 34 per cent of working-class families living in a single room. The Belgian illiteracy rate was the highest in northern Europe because child labour was used to such an extent that few had a chance to go to school. Concerned with “something more profound than doctrine,” the labour movement had founded the Belgian Workers’ Party in 1885 without the usual schisms because it could not afford them. The most solidified, disciplined and serious of the European Socialist parties, it was markedly proletarian though led by the ardent Vandervelde. A lawyer by training, an eloquent and admired speaker and prolific writer on labour problems, Vandervelde was “gushed” over by female Socialists who found him “charming and physically attractive.” Together with the unions, the party organized a system of cooperatives where workers bought Socialist bread and Socialist shoes, drank Socialist beer, arranged for Socialist vacations, and obtained a Socialist education at the Université Nouvelle, where the French Anarchist and geographer Elisée Reclus lectured. Founded by Vandervelde and others in 1894, the same year the Fabians founded the London School of Economics, the Belgian school capped a Socialist world created inside a capitalist society.
By virtue of the extended suffrage won with workers’ lives, the Belgian Workers’ Party in 1894 elected twenty-eight deputies to the most bourgeois parliament in Europe. The advent of this solid bloc “firmly and recklessly prepared to take up arms against every institution of the existing regime” created a thrill of fear in the ruling class and a sudden vision among the faithful that Belgium might be the land where Socialism would first be realized. When a second attempt by general strike to win suffrage on the one-man-one-vote principle was called in 1902, many in the movement were reluctant to risk the gains that had been made, but the militants prevailed. Still aggressive and strong, the ruling class suppressed the strike by “murderous fusillade” in the streets of Louvain. Eight strikers were killed and it took the party many years to recover from the defeat.
If Germany had Marx, France had her Revolution and her Commune. Her Socialism was more spirited but, owing to its extreme factionalism, less solid and therefore less authoritative than Germany’s. The Marxist matrix was the French Workers’ Party, founded by Jules Guesde in consultation with Marx and Engels in 1879. Two years later Paul Brousse seceded to form the Possibilists on the principle that the emancipation of the workers was possible without revolution. Edouard Vaillant, heir of the old Communard Blanqui, headed a separate Socialist Revolutionary Party from which an extreme wing split off called the Allemanists for its leader, Jean Allemane. Guesde was the self-appointed keeper of the Marxian conscience, tirelessly preaching against backsliders and false idols. With thin black hair worn almost to his shoulders, the face of an emaciated Jesus and a pince-nez on his long didactic nose, he was a zealot who never for an instant relaxed total battle against the capitalist system. “Torquemada in eyeglasses” was a contemporary’s epithet and Zola described him talking “with a whole range of passionate gesticulations and a perpetual cough.” For Guesde nothing short of revolution was of any value; no touch of cooperation with the enemy classes permissible. He was an Impossibilist. He belonged to that category of Marxists rendered gloomy by their own prophecies of catastrophe. Mankind, absorbed by materialist districtions, was deteriorating. Postponed much longer, Socialism might not come in time to save it. “What will we Socialists do with a humanity so degraded?” he asked during the Dreyfus Affair. “We will come too late; the human material will be rotten when the time comes to build our house.”
In 1893 Socialists in France, as in Belgium, won an impressive electoral victory: over half a million votes sending thirty-seven deputies to the Chamber. Dominant among them was the newly famous thirty-four-year-old Jean Jaurès, whose championship of the Carmaux strike in his home district of the Tarn had aroused sympathies all over France. The miners of Carmaux, an area of old and bitter labour disputes, succeeded in 1892 in electing as mayor the secretary of their union, a Socialist, who, upon being refused time off to perform his political duties, took it anyway and was thereupon dismissed from his job by the company. It was a blow at the intent of the vote, an insult to the suffrage understood by every heir of the Revolution. When the miners struck in protest, Jaurès, the former professor of philosophy, made himself their adviser, leader and spokesman. His opponent, the Marquis de Solages, master of Carmaux, owner of iron mines, glass works, timber forests, a title and a seat in parliament, was the epitome of capitalism with whom Jaurès fought an endless duel, through strikes and elections, that lasted most of his life. As a candidate of the French Workers’ Party, elected from Carmaux, Jaurès entered the Chamber.
Short and heavy set, a “robust caryatid” with a “jubilant and humorous” face, Jaurès glowed with the warm vitality of the South. “Everything interested him, everything excited him,” said Vandervelde. With his voice which had the volume and range of an organ, his command of debate, his formidable intelligence, inexhaustible energy and unquenchable enthusiasm, he drew leadership upon himself. When he spoke he was in constant motion with bearded head thrown back or body thrust aggressively forward and short arms flailing. “His shoulders trembled and his knees shook under the burden of his thought. All the force of his immense culture and conviction were poured into words to guide the multitude who believed in him toward a better future.” He seemed to combine the solidity of earth with the mobility of fire. His phrasing was so admired that even political opponents would go to hear him as they would to hear Mounet-Sully speak Racine. Hearing him discuss astronomy at a dinner party, a guest wrote, “The walls of the room seemed to dissolve: we swam in the ether. The women forgot to re-powder their faces, the men to smoke, the servants to go in search of their own supper.” Remy de Gourmont said, “Jaurès thinks with his beard,” but the man who wrote Les Preuves and had been in youth the glory of the Ecole Normale thought more clearly than most. Although the French Socialist movement had no official chief, since it was constantly splitting and subdividing, uniting and splitting again, Jaurès, gradually replacing Guesde, came to be accepted as its leader.
He was the authentic Socialist, not in doctrine, but in the essence of the idea and the cause. He believed that man was good, that society could be made good and the struggle to make it so was to be fought daily, by available means and within present realities. He fought it wherever it appeared: in the Fourmies fusillade, at Carmaux, in the lois scélérates, over the bill for the income tax, in the Dreyfus Affair. His Socialism did not stem from Marx; it was, he declared simply, “the product of history, of endless and timeless sufferings.” His Latin thesis for his doctorate was on the origins of German Socialism beginning with Luther, De primis socialismi germanici lineamentis apud Lutherum, Kant, Fichte et Hegel. Elected to the Chamber first as a Republican in 1885, when he was twenty-six and its youngest member, he had become discouraged with politics and had returned to the academic life as professor at the University of Toulouse, where his lectures were soon thronged by workmen and bourgeois townsmen as well as students and faculty. The labour struggles of Toulouse and the Tarn drew him back into public life and he announced himself a Socialist in 1890. Edouard Vaillant once said he never knew any kind of revolution Jaurès was not in favor of, but Jaurès’ idea of revolution was rather of taking over than of overthrowing the State. His Marxism was fluid: he was a patriot as much as an internationalist and believed in individual freedom no less strongly than in collectivism. “We Socialists also have a free spirit; we also feel restive under external restraint,” he said. If Socialist society of the future did not allow men to “walk and sing and meditate under the sky” whenever they chose, it would be unacceptable. He denied the Marxist concept of the bourgeois state as one in which the working class had no share. He saw the working class not as an outsider at the door waiting to take over but as part of the State now, needing to make itself felt now and needing to use the middle class as an ally in the struggle to reform society toward the realization of the Socialist ideal.
His faith had the strength of an engine. “Do you know how to spot an article by Juarès?” asked Clemenceau. “Very simple; all the verbs are in the future tense.” Nevertheless, of all Socialists he was the most pragmatic, never a doctrinaire, always a man of action. He lived by doing, which meant advance and retreat, adaptation, give and take. A formal dogma that might have closed off some avenue of action was not possible for him. He was always the bridge, between men as between ideas. He was a working idealist.
Elected with him as Socialist deputies in 1893 were Alexandre Millerand, a hardheaded lawyer; René Viviani, renowned more for his moving oratory than for its content; and another lawyer, Aristide Briand, youngest of the group, the F. E. Smith of the Socialists, whose brains, ability and ambition were to prove stronger than his convictions. Briand “knows nothing and understands everything,” said Clemenceau, adding that if he were ever accused of stealing the towers of Notre Dame, he would choose Briand to defend him. The Socialist deputies in the parliament of 1893–98 made their ideas and aims and immediate demands known to the country. Among themselves they had managed to agree in 1896 on a minimum definition known as the St-Mandé Program, formulated by Millerand, which stated that “a Socialist is one who believes in the collective ownership of property.” It established as essential Socialist goals the nationalization of the means of production and exchange, one by one as each became ripe; the conquest of political control through universal suffrage; and international cohesion of the working class. In the Chamber they demanded as interim reforms the eight-hour day, the income and inheritance tax, old-age pensions, municipal reform, health and safety regulations in factories, mines and railroads. With Jaurès in the van, with Guesde in his piercing voice making the bourgeoisie tremble as he expounded the implacable march of Marxian history toward collapse, with the conservative defense led by de Mun, and with all the speeches reported in the papers, the debate developed into a great tournament of ideas which made Socialism from then on a main current of French life.
French trade unions, infused by the fierce Syndicalist rejection of political action, federated in the Confédération Générale du Travail in 1895 and kept aloof from Socialism. The antagonism reached a climax at the London Congress of the Second International in 1896, the most “tumultuous and chaotic” of all, when armed with mandates from the French unions the Anarchists (among them Jean Grave, representing the steelworkers of Amiens), made their last claim to membership in the Socialist family. The French factions split apart in frenzied antagonism over the issue, and when they caucused before the plenary session a “pandemonium of savage clamor” could be heard through the closed doors. After six days of strife during which the old quarrel between Marx and Bakunin was fought all over again, the Congress ended by excluding the Anarchists once and for all. A phase of Socialism had come to an end. Few doubted that new issues would not arise to divide the right and left wings of Socialism and keep open the schism between the Absolute and the Possible.
Before that expectation was fulfilled, Socialism in the United States took on a new dimension when the use of injunction in the Pullman strike made a Socialist out of Eugene Victor Debs. Named for Eugène Sue and Victor Hugo by his father, an émigré from Alsace, Debs was brought up on Les Misérables, the bible of father and son. He went to work as a railroad fireman at fourteen, founded the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, and resigned from it in 1892 when he was thirty-seven to organize all railwaymen in an industrial union, the American Railway Union. When in 1893 and 1894 the Pullman Company cut wages by 25 to 33⅓ per cent without lowering rents in company houses and while continuing to pay dividends to investors, Debs called a sympathy strike on all trains carrying Pullman cars. More than a hundred thousand men came out in what developed into the greatest strike effort yet seen in the United States. Mobilizing all the powers of capital, the owners, representing twenty-four railroads with a combined capital of $818,000,000, fought back with the courts and the armed forces of the Federal government behind them. Three thousand police in the Chicago area were mobilized against the strikers, five thousand professional strikebreakers were sworn in as Federal deputy marshals and given firearms; ultimately six thousand Federal and state troops were brought in, less for the protection of property and the public than to break the strike and crush the union. A regular Army colonel, drunk in a Chicago club, wished he could order every man in his regiment to take aim and fire at every “dirty white ribbon,” the emblem of the strikers.
Although the union had agreed to furnish necessary men for the mail trains, delivery of the mail was made the pretext for an injunction, the most sweeping ever granted. As the arm of the State used in support of property, injunction was capitalism’s most formidable weapon and the most resented. Attorney-General Olney, who had been a lawyer for railroads before entering the Cabinet and was still a director of several lines involved in the strike, persuaded President Cleveland of the necessity. The United States District Attorney in Chicago drew up the injunction with the advice of Judges Grosscup and William Wood of the Federal Circuit Court, who then mounted the bench to confirm their own handiwork. When Governor Altgeld refused to request Federal troops, the judges certified the need of them in order to justify the injunction. It was war, proclaimed Debs, between “the producing classes and the money power of the country.” Refusing to obey the injunction, he was arrested along with several associates, imprisoned without bail, tried and sentenced in 1895 to a term of six months.
After his arrest the strikers, by then more or less starving, gave up. Thirty had been killed, sixty injured and over seven hundred arrested. In rehiring, Pullman imposed yellow-dog contracts, requiring every worker to relinquish his right to join a union. The American Railway Union was destroyed but the strike had made a hero of Debs and a villain of injunction. It showed that strikes could not be won when government sided with capital; therefore labour must attain political power.
Debs pondered the lesson in prison. He read Progress and Poverty, Bellamy’s Looking Backward, Fabian Essays, Blatchford’s Merrie England and Kautsky’s commentary on the Erfurt Program. He received a visit from Keir Hardie. He became convinced that the cause of the working class was hopeless under capitalism, and when, in the election of 1896, the forces of Mark Hanna and McKinley defeated Bryan and Populism, his conviction was confirmed. Capitalism, too strong to be reformed, must be destroyed. In return, the ruling class felt no less strongly about “Debs the revolutionist.” While campaigning for McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt said in a private conversation, “The sentiment now animating a large proportion of our people can only be suppressed as the Commune was suppressed, by taking ten or a dozen of their leaders out, standing them against a wall and shooting them dead. I believe it will come to that. These leaders are plotting a social revolution and the subversion of the American Republic.”
Debs announced his conversion to Socialism in a manifesto in the Railway Times of January 1, 1897, saying, “The time has come to regenerate society—we are on the eve of a universal change.” In association with other labour leaders and adopting the form of the name used in Germany, he founded the American Social Democracy, which became the party of native American Socialism. In its early years, with less than four thousand members, it was kept alive by the gold watch of Debs’s brother Theodore, pawned periodically to keep the party newspaper going. Whenever Theodore Debs appeared in the doorway of a pawnshop in the Loop, its old German proprietor would call over his shoulder to the girl at the cash register, “Giff the Socialist chentleman forty dollars.” The political period of American Socialism still lay ahead, when in the first twelve years of the new century, under changed conditions, Debs was to be four times his party’s candidate for President and campaign across the country on board the railwaymen’s Red Special.
For the moment, his rival was the Socialist Labor Party, drawn chiefly from the foreign born and existing largely on paper and in the mind of its fanatic dictator, Daniel De Leon. Born in Curaçao of Dutch-Jewish parents and educated in Germany, De Leon was convinced that only he was fitted to lead the class struggle. He had come to the United States at twenty-two, and having taken a law degree at Columbia and held a lectureship there in Latin-American history, he was scorned by union opponents as the “professor.” Besides keeping up hot and incessant propagation of Socialist ideas in his weekly The People, De Leon ran for the New York State Assembly, for Congress and in 1891 for Governor without visible result. To draw organized labor into political action he launched the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance, whose chief function was to excite the rage of the craft-union leader, Sam Gompers. Political action in Gompers’ eyes was the devil’s pitchfork and of De Leon he said that “no more sinister force” had ever appeared in Socialism. In 1901 a large faction of the Socialist Labor Party, opposing De Leon’s “dictatorship,” seceded, under Morris Hillquit and Victor Berger, to join Debs’s group, which now renamed itself the Socialist Party of America.
Socialism’s inveterate opponent, Gompers was the prototype of regular as opposed to revolutionary trade unionism. He was the outstanding exponent of the view that labour’s fight must be carried on within, not against, the capitalist system. Dwarfish and stocky, “almost grotesque,” with a huge head and heavy coarse features, he was, though ugly, an impressive personality who dominated any meeting in which he took part. When launched on one of his anti-Socialist tirades in the Federation, an old opponent in the Typographers’ Union who enjoyed heckling him used to call from the floor, “Give ’em hell, Sam; give ’em hell.” Sam never slackened in the effort. Having rejected the Old World, he deeply distrusted the Socialist tradition, though well grounded in it. As a young man in the cigarmaking trade, which, paying by the piece, allowed one worker to read aloud while the others made up his quota, he read Marx, Engels, and Lassalle to his fellow workers. “Learn from Socialism” but “don’t join,” advised his mentor, an exiled Swedish Marxist. “Study your union card, Sam,” he would say, “and if the idea doesn’t square with it, it ain’t true.”
With faith in the new society of America, Gompers rejected the pessimism of the Marxian premise. He believed unalterably that labour should keep out of politics, while using its power to bargain directly with employers. Regulation of wages, hours and working conditions should be achieved by union activity, not by legislative enactment. He founded the Federation in 1881, when he was thirty-one, in a room ten by eight with a kitchen table for a desk, a crate for a stool and tomato boxes supplied by a friendly grocer for files. By 1897 it had 265,000 members, by 1900 half a million, by 1904 a million and a half. When Bryan, angling for the union vote in 1896, promised that if elected he would appoint Gompers to his Cabinet, Gompers stood up to announce that under “no circumstances” would he ever accept any political office. He refused to allow the AF of L to come out in support of Bryan and Populism because, as he said, “these middle-class issues” diverted labour from its own interest, which was the union and nothing else.
As his power grew, he shaved off his walrus moustache, adopted pince-nez, a Prince Albert coat and a silk hat, and like John Burns, enjoyed hobnobbing with the great, negotiating with Mark Hanna or August Belmont. Yet he never made money for himself and was to die a poor man. While repudiating the class struggle he remained profoundly class conscious. “I am a working man. In every nerve, in every fibre, in every aspiration I am on the side which will advance the interests of my fellow working men.” The task for union members was to “organize more generally, combine more closely, unite our forces, educate and prepare ourselves to protect our interests, that we may go to the ballot box and cast our votes as American freemen, united and determined to redeem this country from its present political and industrial misrule, to take it from the hands of the plutocratic wreckers and place it in the hands of the common people.” This in effect was practical Socialism. So was his reaction fifteen years later when on a tour of Europe he saw visitors appalled at an exhibit of slum conditions in Amsterdam. He recorded their shock that any human being would stand this “gross insult” from civilization: “Why not revolt against it somehow?” Socialism was essentially the movement of those who felt impelled to “revolt against it somehow,” and Gompers, as Morris Hillquit used to say, was a Socialist without knowing it.
In Europe in 1899 a new issue exploded in the ranks of Socialism when Waldeck-Rousseau, seeking a wide base for the Government that was to “liquidate” the Dreyfus Affair, offered Cabinet office to Millerand, who accepted. Never before had a Socialist stepped over the invisible barrier into the bourgeois camp to cooperate with any part of it. Although Jaurès had led, pushed and persuaded the Socialists, or a faction of them, to join the bourgeois Dreyfusard groups in the battle to save the Republic, to enter a bourgeois government was another matter. Millerand’s case raised the fundamental issue of cooperation which from here on grew more pressing as with each year the Socialists played a greater role in national life. The dilemma presented itself: whether to remain condemned to an orthodox if sterile purity waiting for the final overthrow of capitalism, or to cooperate with the bourgeois parties left of center, supporting them against reaction and spurring them toward reforms. The question carried the further implication: whether Socialist goals might not, in the long run, be attained by way of reform?
While le cas Millerand threw French Socialists into a turmoil, the same issue rose up in Germany, not in the flesh, but, as befitted Germans, in theory. It came from the most impeccable origins, promulgated by a man of the inner circle, a protégé of Marx and Engels, a friend and associate of Liebknecht, Bebel and Kautsky and a member of the founding Congress of 1889. It was as shocking as if one of the apostles had disputed Jesus. The name of the man who presumed to revise Marx was Eduard Bernstein, and his new doctrine, as if not quite daring to give itself a name, came to be called simply Revision. A bank clerk as a young man, Bernstein, at the age of nineteen, had gone into exile in Switzerland in 1878, the year of Bismarck’s anti-Socialist law. From here he edited the party paper, Sozialdemokrat, so effectively as to win the approval of Marx and the accolade of Engels, who called it “the best the party has had.” In 1888 the German Government paid it the compliment of bringing pressure on the Swiss to expel the staff. Bernstein moved to London, where, like the Master, he spent his time in the reading room of the British Museum and made no attempt to return to Germany after the repeal of the anti-Socialist law in 1890. Though still under indictment for sedition, he could have appealed his case, but he was writing a book on the English Revolution according to the Marxian interpretation and besides he found the atmosphere of London sympathetic. This was symptomatic of his trouble. During these years he acted as correspondent for the new party paper, Vorwärts, and for Kautsky’s Neue Zeit. Headquarters of German Socialism in London was Engels’ house in Regent’s Park, where the exiles gathered for evenings of discussion around a table generously laden with thick sandwiches and beer and, at the proper season, Christmas pudding. On Engels’ death in 1895 Bernstein and Bebel were named his literary executors.
The following year, as if restraint had been lifted by Engels’ death, Bernstein’s first heretical articles appeared. He was forty-six in 1896, an outwardly decent, respectable figure with rimless glasses and thinning hair who looked as if he might have been a bank teller all his life, rising perhaps to branch manager. His only noticeable feature was a long flaring independent nose. Acquainted with the Fabians—in fact, a good friend of Graham Wallas—he had for a long time felt a prejudice against them for their willingness to work within the capitalist order. At the same time the workings of democratic government in England impressed him and he could not resist the surrounding evidence that capitalism was somehow not approaching imminent collapse. Despite glaring inequalities of wealth and the “increasing misery” Marx had predicted, paradoxically the system was undeniably strong, even aggressive. The world seemed unfairly caught in a relentless spiral of prosperity, with results which seeped down to counteract the “increasing misery” in the form of increased employment. In London and in exile Bernstein suffered the disadvantages of independent thought and became increasingly prey to the suspicion that history was not following the path that Marx had charted. She had disobeyed the Germandiktat. Hegel had laid it down; Marx had hardened it; but history, with a Mona Lisa smile, had gone her own way, eluding the categorical imperative.
Like a man beginning to doubt the Biblical story of Creation, Bernstein was assailed by the agonies of failing faith. He became moody and irritable and at one point even applied for a job in a bank in the Transvaal. Eleanor Marx wrote to Kautsky that Bernstein was in bad spirits and making enemies. But intellectual courage won. From 1896 to 1898 he submitted a series of articles on “Problems of Socialism” to the Neue Zeit which instantly provoked outcries and tirades. The German Socialist world was thrown into an orgy of controversy, heightened when Bernstein embodied his ideas in an address which he sent to the German party’s Congress at Stuttgart in October, 1898, and subsequently enlarged into a book, Die Voraussetzungen des Sozialismus (The Evolution of Socialism), published in March, 1899.
It set forth the facts contrary to Marx: the middle class was not disappearing; the number of propertied persons was increasing, not decreasing. In Germany the working class was not sinking in progressive impoverishment but slowly making gains. Capital was not accumulating among a diminishing number of capitalists but was rather being diffused over a wider ownership through the medium of stocks and shares. Increased production was not all being consumed by capitalists but was spreading into increased consumption by the middle class and even, as they earned more, by the proletariat. In Germany the consumption of sugar, meat and beer was going up. The wider the spread of money, the less chance of any single economic crisis bringing about a final crash. If Socialists waited for that, Bernstein warned, they might wait indefinitely. In short, the grim twins, Verelendung and Zusammenbruch, were shadows.
In place of the Marxian dialectic, Bernstein suggested a capitalist economy capable of indefinite expansion and ability to adjust itself so as to rule out the supposedly inevitable breakdown. In that case the existing order was here to stay. If breakdown and revolution were not, after all, inescapable, then the Socialist goal might be an ethical democratic society based on the support of all classes, rather than on the proletariat alone. If revolutionary aims were abandoned, Bernstein declared, carried away on a wave of optimism, the working class could win the support of the bourgeoisie for reforms within the existing order.
The implication for “Millerandism” was clear. If capitalism and Socialism were not, after all, to be a stark choice of one or the other, if society was to continue with some of this and some of that, then there was no further point in Socialists excluding themselves from a role in government.
Revision meant in effect abandonment of the class struggle. It was a stake plunged into the heart of Socialism. Bernstein did not shrink. The workers, he brazenly suggested, were not, as Marx assumed, a coherent, homogeneous “class,” conscious of themselves as “the proletariat” or likely to become so. They were divided between rural and urban, skilled and unskilled, factory and home, with different interests and different levels of earning power. Many were hostile or indifferent to Socialism and tended to share bourgeois morals and habits rather than sharing Socialist contempt for the bourgeois.
If class was not, after all the primary loyalty of the worker, then it followed that his interests like those of any citizen were bound up with the national interests of his country. Here was the terrible horizon of Revision. Bernstein even banished the cruel edict of theCommunist Manifesto: “the worker has no Fatherland.” When every workingman had the vote, he said, as in Germany, he acquired political rights and responsibilities and must therefore think in terms of the national interest.
Revision tore Socialism apart. Bernstein’s open formulation of the case rallied adherents long troubled by their own doubts. Party leaders rushed to attack the heretic. He was accused of being “English.” Kautsky refuted every argument in a book, Bernstein and the Social-Democratic Program, which was intended to dispose of him but somehow did not. Dispute swelled and penetrated every meeting, newspaper and policy committee. Charged with ignoring the final goal of Socialism, Bernstein made the shocking reply, “I confess openly I have little interest in what is generally called ‘the final goal of Socialism.’ This goal, whatever it may be, is nothing to me; the movement [for social progress] everything.” He decided to come home to defend himself in person. Friends interceded for him with the Government, and Chancellor von Bülow, calculating that he would be a disruptive influence, allowed the indictment against him to lapse. Returning in 1901, Bernstein was elected to the Reichstag in a by-election in 1902. He became the editor of a Revisionist journal and the oracle of a Revisionist faction which sprang up within the party and continued to grow.
The appeal of Revision was that it offered an end to Socialist isolation, opened the door to participation and also to ambition. It allowed Socialists to feel themselves part of their country, however contrary the feeling was to the command of the prophet. It recognized another reality: that imperceptibly, in a way Marx had not foreseen, a transfer of power between classes was in fact taking place, like water seeping through a dam.
Revision had a fault which Viktor Adler noted. It was said of Adler that like Montaigne he should have adopted a pair of scales for his emblem and the motto “Que sais-je?” because he always looked for some evil in anything good and some good in anything evil. In a letter to Bernstein he wrote that he had brought into the open doubts which all Socialists felt at one time or another but that in the end Adler himself would side with the Revolutionaries because Revision carried the mortal danger that “Socialists would lose sight of Socialism.”
In the French Socialist world, at the same time, the quarrels let loose by le cas Millerand were even more ferocious and divisive than those in Germany. Distressed though he had been at Millerand’s acceptance of office, Jaurès, when forced to take a stand, supported collaboration as against no collaboration at all. At the French party’s Congress in Paris in December, 1899, he denied that it would lead to personal corruption, as charged by the Marxists. Since, he argued, it was impossible to predict when the capitalist collapse would come, it was necessary to work for reforms while preparing the way. “We must not fight from a futile distance,” he said, “but from the heart of the citadel.” Enraged orations by his opponents filled the hall. “Tall, thin, desiccated, his eyes ablaze like black fire,” Guesde preached the purity of Marxism and was citing Liebknecht when one excited Ministerialist, as the supporters of Millerand were called, shouted, “Down with Liebknecht!” The shock that passed over the faces of the Guesdists, a delegate said later, was as if someone had shouted “Down with God!” in Notre Dame. After three days of intense fracas the proposition was put, “Yes or no, does the class struggle permit a Socialist to enter a bourgeois government?” The vote was for No but was immediately followed by another vote permitting Ministerialism under exceptional circumstances. With Jaurès pleading for unity the Congress managed to close under a patched-up formula in which underlying antagonisms were unresolved. Two parties thereafter emerged: Guesde, Vaillant and Marx’s son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, formed the Socialist Party of France committed to “no compromise with any fraction of the bourgeoisie” and to the destruction of capitalism. Jaurès, Millerand, Briand and Viviani formed the French Socialist Party committed to a reform program for “immediate realization.”
Throughout the world in every Socialist party headquarters and meeting hall where the red flag stood dustily in a corner, Revision and le cas Millerand widened old schisms. While doctrinaire Socialists clung to original principles, the Revisionists were discovering that Socialism, like politics, was the art of the possible. More divided than ever, the Second International assembled for its fifth Congress in Paris in September, 1900, in the midst of the Exposition. With the city full of visitors and the center of world attention, Socialist leaders were anxious to prevent an open rupture. Kautsky contrived a resolution which, while refusing to approve Millerand’s action, did not condemn it. Delegates called it the Kaoutchouc (india-rubber) Resolution because it was so elastic. Pounded in debate, slashed by the furious swordplay of De Leon, it occupied almost the entire time of the Congress. At one point a German delegate, Erhard Auer, let slip a regret that the opportunity for a cas Millerand was not likely to offer itself to German Socialists. Exposing a basic fact of life in his country, the remark caused an outburst of applause, hisses and outraged discussion in the corridors. Eventually, under the expert piloting of Jaurès, bent as ever on unity, the Kautsky Resolution was passed over the heads of an intransigent minority. Jaurès’ theme, as at his own Congress, was: “We are all good revolutionaries; let us make that clear and let us unite!” But the fact was something less than the wish.
With the Boer War, the war in the Philippines and the Boxer Rebellion in progress, delegates found it easy to unite on a resolution put forward by Rosa Luxemburg stating that capitalism would collapse as a consequence, not of economic conditions, but of imperialist rivalries. Recommending Socialist parties to work against war by organizing and educating youth to carry on the class struggle, by voting against military and naval estimates and by anti-militarist protest meetings, the resolution was passed unanimously along with another denouncing the recent Hague Conference as a fraud.
The only concrete accomplishment of the Congress was a decision to establish a permanent organization in the form of a Bureau in Brussels of which Vandervelde was named chairman and Camille Huysmans, another Belgian, secretary. It was to pass interim resolutions, prepare agenda for Congresses and hold emergency meetings, if necessary, to which member nations would each send two delegates. As the budget allocated to it was minuscule, the Bureau, as time went on, did not acquire great prestige or executive power, and except as a mail drop, served chiefly to emphasize that the sinews of internationalism were slender.
Revision continued to cut deep inroads. Jaurès, while defending collaboration as a fact of political life, refused to accept Bernstein’s revision of theory. In the controversy between Bernstein and Kautsky, he told a Socialist Student Conference in 1900, “I am, on the whole, with Kautsky.” Bernstein was wrong, he said, about the proletarian and bourgeois classes merging at their edges. Between the class that possesses the means of production and the class that does not “there is a definite line of demarcation,” although of course there were intermediate shadings; and from these, Jaurès, once more the professor, launched himself happily on the wings of philosophic discourse. “One goes from white to black, from purple to red, from night to day by these imperceptible transitions which allowed Heraclitus to say that in day there is always some night and in night some day.… In fact, it is a characteristic of extremes that they are approached by intermediary nuances.…” Jaurès sailed on, holding his audience entranced until with a snap he came back to the issue. However “radically antagonistic” the classes, that did not mean there could be no contact or cooperation, and he closed with a final appeal for Socialist unity “amid loud applause, prolonged acclamations and cries of Vive Jaurès!”
As one of the four vice-presidents of the Chamber after his re-election in 1902, Jaurès practiced cooperation daily, becoming virtual leader of the left bloc of the parties which supported the Government in its battles against the Army and the religious orders. Life was pushing him toward Revision. He attended garden parties at the British Embassy and a banquet in the Elysée Palace for the King and Queen of Italy in 1903. At the Bordeaux Congress of his party that year he argued that the State was not, as Guesde maintained, an impenetrable bloc to stand or be overthrown, but penetrable by reforms. As these were gained, one by one, the workers’ state would one day be discovered to have replaced the bourgeois state and “we shall be aware of having entered the zone of Socialism as navigators cross into the zone of a new hemisphere, though there is no rope stretched across the ocean to mark it.” But he acknowledged that the problem of reconciling collaboration with class struggle was “complicated.” In their party Congress at Dresden that year the Germans were finding it painfully so.
The issue came to a head in the great “knee-breeches” debate. The Social-Democrats were fresh from an electoral victory in which they had polled over three million votes to win eighty-one seats in the Reichstag. To maintain rigid Marxian apartness under these circumstances, Bernstein argued, was senseless. He urged the party to assume the prerogatives of its strength, namely, to accept one of the vice-presidencies of the Reichstag which was its due. Since this required paying an official call upon the Kaiser in court costume, the problem provided matter for days of passionate dispute. Imagine Socialists dressed up in knee-breeches, stockings and buckled shoes! scolded Bebel. To make the Socialist party hoffähig (acceptable at court) was an insult to the entire working class. Bernstein suggested that the issue was less a question of what Socialists wore than of what they did in Parliament, but the debaters were too absorbed in the awful yet alluring prospect of knee-breeches to listen to him.
The debate on Revision continued for three days with fifty speakers participating. Bernstein’s expulsion was demanded by a group led by Rosa Luxemburg, whose small, frail body contained an outsize passion for revolution. Born in Poland in 1870, the daughter of a Jewish timber merchant, she was not good-looking save for a pair of fine black eyes. She had a limp, a deformed shoulder, a powerful intellect and a strong, clear voice. Retaining always a slight Polish accent, she was a formidable orator whose eloquence so aroused an Inspector of Police, posted at one of her meetings, as to make him forget his official status and applaud loudly. Rosa sent him a note saying, “It is a pity that a man as sensible as you should be in the police but it would be a greater pity if the police should lose so human an example. Don’t applaud any more.”
With Karl Liebknecht, son of Wilhelm, she represented the militant revolutionary left wing, centered in Leipzig, whose organ was the Leipziger Volkzeitung, edited by Franz Mehring. As the party increased in size and influence and its writers and advocates inevitably mixed in bourgeois circles, she led the resistance to growing respectability. For Revision, or “parliamentary and trade-union cretinism” as she called it, with its “comfortable theory of a peaceful passage from one economic order to another,” she had only burning contempt. She believed in the revolutionary instinct and creative revolutionary energy of the unorganized masses which were to erupt spontaneously when history required it. The task of the party, as she saw it, was to educate, guide and inspire the masses in anticipation of the historic crisis, not to soften the revolutionary impulse through reform.
Between the Radicals and the Revisionists, the General Council of the party arbitrated, maintaining its balance without too much difficulty. As one of the leaders, Georg Ledebour, said, the party was 20 per cent radical, 30 per cent revisionist and the rest “will follow wherever Bebel goes.” Bebel arranged the usual compromise. Without expelling Bernstein, the Dresden Congress defeated his motion for cooperation and passed a resolution reaffirming the policy of class struggle “which we have triumphantly pursued hitherto,” and “decisively” rejecting any policy or tactics of “accommodation to the existing order.” Thus the largest Socialist bloc in Europe maintained fidelity to Marx on paper while the facts of Revision continued to flourish.
Revisionists were not blind to the implications of abandoning the primacy of the class struggle. Nationalism was in the air and they felt its invigorating force. As Socialists they wanted to participate in national life, not to stay shut out, waiting for the promised collapse which never came. In the Socialist Monthly Bernstein used the English experience of imperialism and its relation to employment to argue that the fate of the working class was “indissolubly tied up” with the nation’s external affairs, that is, with its foreign markets. Labour’s interest, he said forthrightly, lay in a “Weltpolitik without war.”
While the Germans disputed at Dresden, Revision cut a historic schism among the Russian Social-Democrats, who held their own party Congress of sixty members that year in London. No cas Millerand or even knee-breeches appeared on their horizon, nevertheless they split between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks over the issue of collaboration in the future. The former insisted on revolution and dictatorship of the proletariat in one leap with no interim accommodation; the latter believed this could not be achieved until Russia had first passed through a bourgeois stage of parliamentary government during which Socialists would have to collaborate with the liberal parties.
As a member of the Second International, the Russian party was perennially represented at international Congresses by its founder, Georgi Plekhanov, who had lived so long in exile that he had lost touch with affairs inside his own country. Apart from him, the other Russians in exile had little or no contact with the Socialists in whose countries they lived. Absorbed in their own fierce factional quarrel they held their own Congresses with little role in the International. Moving through London, Paris, Geneva and Munich, Plekhanov’s rival, Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik faction, relentlessly poured out his denunciations of “opportunism” and “social-chauvinism.” Now and then he visited the Bureau at Brussels, but no one, wrote Vandervelde, paid much attention to this “little man with the narrow eyes, rusty beard and monotone voice, forever explaining with exact and glacial politeness the traditional Marxist formulas.”
Elsewhere the facts of political life were making a necessity of Revision whether the Marxists liked it or not. Industry was expanding, bringing with it a rise in trade-union membership which increased the lever of pressure in the hands of the working class. While the battle of capital and labour continued as fiercely as ever, the working class through the Socialist parties was enlarging its representation in every European Parliament. In Italy, where the peasants’ unions and agricultural cooperatives were strongly Socialist, the party increased from 26,000 votes and 6 seats in Parliament in 1892 to 175,000 votes and 32 seats in 1904. In France, Jaurès’ party, followed by the imprecations of Guesde and his followers, was performing a role in national life; and Jaurès himself was emerging as the real if not nominal leader of the Government’s majority in the Chamber. In the Socialist world he moved forward to challenge the domination of the great German monolith at the next Congress of the International, held in Amsterdam in August, 1904.
The duel of Jaurès and Bebel made the Amsterdam Congress remembered by everyone present as the most stimulating of all the meetings of the Second International. Five hundred delegates attended, of whom about two hundred at any one time understood the language of the speaker. The platform was draped in red stamped with a gold monogram of the initials I.S.C., which, with the S twining around the I bore a startling resemblance to a well-known symbol of capitalism. Overhead a banner bore in Dutch the device on which everyone could still agree, Proletaariers van alle Landen, Vereinigt U! (Workers of the World, Unite!)
Factions were multiple. Britain had four delegations: the ILP led by Keir Hardie, the Socialist-Democratic Federation by Hyndman, the Labour Representation Committee by Shackleton, and a Fabian group. France had three delegations and the United States two, with the inevitable De Leon casting his scorn on all. He disapproved of the “social and picnic” aspect of the Congress, of delegates rustling papers and conversing and walking about during speeches, visiting with foreign friends, introducing one to another, arriving and departing and slamming doors. He pronounced Jaurès an “unqualified nuisance in the Socialist movement,” Bebel its “evil genius,” Adler “absurd,” Vandervelde a “comedian,” Hyndman “too dull” to understand what was going on, the British trade unionists “disastrous,” Shackleton a “capitalist placeman,” and Jean Allemane a “flannel-mouthed blatherskite.” The only party which did not betray the working class by “revisionist flapdoodlism” was his own, whose attitude at all times was “sword drawn, scabbard thrown away.”
Cooperation was the question to be settled, placed on the agenda by demand of Guesde. Bebel’s object was to impose the Dresden Resolution of the German party upon the International. It provided, he said, the correct guidance for Socialists at all times in all circumstances since it stated the fundamental antagonism between the proletarian and the capitalist state. He took occasion to cite the growing strength of the German party. Jaurès retorted that if Socialists were as strong as that in France, they would “make something happen.” Between the appearance of German strength and the reality of their influence, he said, launching upon a major offensive, there was a startling contrast. Why? Because “there is no revolutionary tradition among your workers. They never conquered universal suffrage on the barricades. They received it from above.” All the deputies in the Reichstag were powerless, for the Reichstag was itself powerless in any case. It was the very helplessness of the German Socialists which enabled them to take an uncompromising stand on doctrine. What weighed most heavily upon Europe now was not the bold attempt of French Socialists to play a part in their national life, “but the tragic impotence of German Social Democracy.” Passionately he defended his main thesis: that Socialists without abandoning principle must be the “marching wing” of democratic progress, even if necessary in liaison with bourgeois parties.
“Certainly Germany is a reactionary, feudal, police state, the worst governed country in Europe” except for Turkey and Russia, Bebel replied, “but we scarcely need anyone from the outside to tell us how dismal our conditions are.” Jaurès’ policy, he said, would corrupt the proletariat. The Dresden Resolution was the only safe guide. Shrilly Rosa Luxemburg denounced Jaurès as “der grosse Verderber” (the great corrupter). When he stood up to reply, asking who would translate for him, she answered, “I will, if you like, Citizen Jaurès.” Looking around with a broad smile Jaurès said, “You see, Citizens, even in battle there is collaboration.”
Refusing to give up the principle of class war, the majority voted for the Dresden Resolution against Jaurès, combining, as Vandervelde said, doctrinal enmity with personal sympathy. “We remembered the Dreyfus Affair” and the “magnificent ardor” of Jaurès’ great battle against the accumulated forces of reaction, but the majority could not nerve themselves to cut the umbilical cord to Marx. In a final effort to close the rifts of Revision, the Congress adopted a last resolution stating it to be “indispensable” to have only one Socialist party in each country henceforth. All who claimed the name of Socialist must work for unity in the interest of the working classes of the world, to whom they would be responsible for “the mortal consequences of a continuance of their divisions.”
A problem that had not yet been their main concern made a tentative appearance at Amsterdam. With the echo of the Russo-Japanese War in their ears, delegates discussed working-class responsibility to society in the event of another war and the feasibility of a general strike. German Marxist ardor cooled at the very word. To talk general strike was one thing; to get the unions to act on it quite another. So far as the German trade unions were concerned, the “political mass strike,” as they called it, was anathema. If the Fatherland were attacked, said Bebel, old as he was, he with every other Social-Democrat would shoulder a rifle and fight to defend his country. Looking very grave, Jaurès said to Vandervelde on their way out, “I think, my friend, I am going to apply myself to the study of military questions.”
On his return home, as a loyal Socialist in obedience to the Amsterdam decision, he moved back toward a rapprochement with Guesde, reuniting the two parties in the following year as the Socialist Party, French Section of the Workers’ International, commonly called, from its French initials, the SFIO. It declared itself to be “not a party of reform but a party of class struggle and revolution” and verbally repudiated collaboration. Although this was a defeat for his position, Jaurès did not make a fetish of words. He let doctrine follow action and could the more easily concede formula to Guesde since he himself was the real leader of the union. Cooperation for him was not an end in itself but an avenue of action.
For some it proved indeed the corrupter in a political sense. In 1906, the same year in which the ILP entered the House of Commons and John Burns the Cabinet, French Socialists polled 880,000 votes and won fifty-four seats in the Chamber. Briand, who had been active in the matter of disestablishing the religious schools, was offered the post of Minister of Education. He accepted and in the ensuing bitterness left the party. A few months later Viviani followed him into office as Minister of Labour. Together with Millerand, who now called himself an Independent Socialist, they held a succession of offices from now on, with Briand reaching the premiership within three years and Viviani five years later. Carrying cooperation to its logical extreme, they became, as Ambassador Izvolsky said, “reasonable through the exercise of power.”
In 1905 the great Marxist event, Revolution, suddenly took place—in the wrong way in the wrong country. Russia had not reached the highly industralized stage which Marx had predicated as necessary for collapse. The rising was not the work of a self-conscious disciplined proletariat but simply of exasperated human beings. No one was surprised that it failed, but the most extraordinary aspect of its passage was that it left Socialism virtually untouched.
All over the world people were horrified by the Cossacks’ shooting down of workers on their march to the Winter Palace with their petition to the Czar. When news of the “fiendish massacre” was heard at a Trade Union Congress in Liverpool, the immediate reaction was to raise a fund of £1,000 for the families of the murdered men. When the Russian workers’ protest became a general strike in October, forcing the regime in its fright to grant a Constitution, the event created a profound impression as a triumph of the working class. Workers in Europe held mass meetings, cheered and waved red flags. “Long live the Russian Revolution! Long live Socialism!” shouted Italian peasants fifteen hundred miles from St. Petersburg. But no spark from the Russian fire ignited a general conflagration. The long-awaited spontaneous uprising had occurred, but no Western working class was prepared to overthrow capitalism. Only the Austrian Socialists alertly used the example to bring to a climax their campaign for universal suffrage.
Seizing the opportunity to work on the fright inspired in the rulers by Russian events, Viktor Adler in Vienna proclaimed a general strike for November 28. He worked on the preparations for a month in advance. One party member in a factory where the workers were not Socialists could not bring them to join; no one would talk about the Revolution or the proposed strike or “touch a political subject with a ten-foot pole.” The demonstration, however, was a success. In Vienna, the Mariahilferstrasse was black with thousands of marchers packed so tightly that it took an hour to cover the half mile to the Ringstrasse, where the parade was joined by even greater crowds from other districts of the city. The tramp of the masses, the clenched fists, the red flags, raised again the terrible vision of Mme Hennebau in Germinal. The Austrian regime, frightened by the demonstrations, yielded the promise of manhood suffrage, which went into effect in 1907, virtually the only positive result of the Russian rising.
German Social-Democrats, too, arranged demonstrations for reform of the electoral system in Prussia, which was organized according to the tax roll. The great number of small taxpayers at the base who paid the same total amount as the fewer middle third and as the very few rich at the top were not permitted to elect more than one-third of the local representatives. The Socialists always elected their full third of the municipal councils, but even when they had the votes, could never win control. Nor, confirming Jaurès’ taunt, could they win it on the barricades. Against the steel of the Prussian government, their demonstrations won no improvements.
One effect of the Russian revolution was to lose the Socialists votes. In the German election of 1907 middle-class voters represented by the Progressive party, which previously, when it came to a choice, had supported the Social-Democrats in preference to the reactionary parties, voted for the Conservative candidate. They were influenced too by heavy propaganda of the Navy and Pan-German Leagues, who wanted the election to register an overwhelming mandate for nationalism and imperialism. In the “Hottentot Election,” as it was called from the current war in Germany’s African colonies, the Socialists for the first time since 1890 lost seats.
Leon Trotsky, despairing at the repression under which the Russian revolution now seemed “hopelessly and permanently trampled,” was struck by the lack of interest among the European Socialists. Meeting Kautsky in 1907, a small, delicate man with clear blue eyes and snow-white hair and beard who looked like “a very kind grandpapa” though only fifty-three, he found him “hostile to the transfer of revolutionary methods to German soil.” On paper, revolution had a lovely glow; the reality in the streets was less welcome. The abortive experience in Russia revealed that the Western working class on the whole wanted no part of it. As a result, Revision was encouraged and Revision signified the further from class, the nearer to nationalism.
Industrial war did not slacken. Labour after 1905 listened increasingly to the Syndicalist teaching of direct action. Its source and influence was strongest in France, where Anarchists had long vigorously denounced the parliamentary method as a sham which diverted the labour movement from revolutionary aims to political issues and favored the leadership of intellectuals. In Syndicalist eyes the Socialist politicians, as members of a national parliament, became essentially part of the bourgeois world, taking on its codes and losing touch with the working class. Syndicalists insisted class war was economic, not political, and should be waged by strike, not debate. With the increasing infiltration of the Anarchists, the trade-union movement adopted revolutionary Syndicalism and direct action as its official doctrine at the CGT Congress of 1906. Direct action against employers consisted of the strike, the slowdown, boycott and sabotage; against the State it included propaganda, mass demonstration, resistance to militarism and to patriotism, a delusion fostered by the capitalists to perpetuate their power. Every gain by the workers was to be considered as strengthening them for the final battle and for the supreme last act of the class war—the general strike, the “revolution of folded arms” which, paralyzing the bourgeois world, would emancipate the working class and win control of the means of production.
In Italy where suppression of the labour movement by police and troops had long been brutal and the gulf of mutual hatred and fear between the classes was deep, the general strike was twice attempted under Syndicalist leadership, in 1904 and 1906, at a cost of savage strife and workers’ lives. In France the defeat of one strike after another during the years of Clemenceau’s Radical Government from 1906 to 1909 revealed the gap between Syndicalist preaching of the general strike and the actual power of the workers. Labour in France was still largely agricultural and a large share of industry was conducted in small non-union enterprises. CGT membership was not a major proportion of all industrial labour and, reflecting the old antagonism between Anarchists and Socialists, was more frequently at odds with the party than united in mutual support.
Employers fought back violently with dismissals and lockouts against CGT efforts to organize new trades and were frequently abetted by the use of troops, which Clemenceau claimed were necessary to prevent violence against non-strikers. In the strikes by miners of the Nord in 1906, by dockers at Nantes and by vineyard workers of the Midi in 1907, by construction workers in 1908, troops were dispatched by the Government in each case with a resulting total of 20 killed and 667 wounded. Strikes by postal workers and teachers were stamped out by threat of permanent dismissal on the ground that civil servants had no right to organize or strike against the government. CGT officials who had organized them were arrested on charge of incitement to rebellion. Against thestubborn resistance of employers a maximum limit of an eleven-hour day had been enacted in 1900, and a Sunday rest law and old-age pensions in 1906, but against the strike wave in the Clemenceau years, the hard hand of the Government behind the employer reflected Clemenceau’s unsentimental dictum, “France is founded on property, property, property.” The state’s intervention nourished anger and disillusion. The Radical Government’s recourse to violence, said Jaurès in 1909, and “its failure to reform society have produced a public lassitude, a muffled grumbling, an undercurrent of discontent.…” In the same year, a similar discontent with the Liberal Government in England was creating the same climate of restiveness.
In the United States the employers’ counter-offensive also gathered force, backed by court decisions which used the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to outlaw picketing, boycott and strikes as restraint of trade. Like the hilltop signal fires of ancient times, Syndicalism sent its message across the Atlantic and it flared into existence in America with the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905. Created by Debs and “Big Bill” Haywood of the Western Federation of Miners in strange alliance with De Leon, the IWW was, by European standards, an impossible combination of Syndicalism and Socialism. It preached the doctrine of direct action, while Debs, its hero, campaigned as Socialist candidate for the Presidency of the United States.
American Socialism, like Russian, since it had no representatives in Congress and no role in government even at the municipal level, was protected from the temptations of collaboration. Debs by now had completely espoused the doctrine of class war to the end. Workers must be revolutionaries, not compromisers with the existing order. Their object was not merely to raise wages but to abolish the wage system. He saw Syndicalism as taking over the revolutionary spirit of original Socialism and as offering the means to achieve the promised goal through the trade-union methods in which he had grown up. In a letter to thirty trade-union leaders in December, 1904, he invited them to join in discussing “ways and means of uniting the working people of America on correct revolutionary principles.” At its opening convention in Chicago on June 27, 1905, attended by miners, lumbermen, railwaymen, brewery workers and other industrial unions and Socialist factions, the IWW declared itself to be “the Continental Congress of the working class” which would unite skilled and unskilled in one great industrial union to overthrow capitalism and establish a Socialist society. Declaring for the ultimate weapon of Syndicalism, its slogan was “One big Union and one big Strike.” According to Haywood—a one-eyed giant and “a bundle of primitive instincts”—the IWW would go down into the gutter to reach the “bums” and migratory workers and bring them up along with the whole mass of labour to a “decent plane of living.” Scorning collective bargaining, agreements and political effort, it would work through propaganda, boycott, sabotage and the strike. Government, politics, elections were the bunk; the country should be run by the unions.
The IWW’s rejection of political action set off a series of schisms and secessions which flew like woodchips from an ax. Debs was violently attacked by some Socialist colleagues for splitting the labour movement. De Leon broke away in 1908 and continued from his diminished outpost to fight for pristine principle. For Debs the goal was everything and any method which led to it, political as well as direct action, acceptable. Despite the Syndicalist principles of the IWW he ran again for President as the candidate of the Socialist party in 1908. In meetings across the country Haywood and others raised money in pennies and nickels to rent a locomotive and sleeping car to carry Debs on his campaign. Passing locomotive engineers tooted their whistles as the Red Special with red banners streaming from its roof and rear platform went by. Debs had a way of making people believe in the attainability of Socialism. Without brass bands or loud-speakers, his voice, smile and outstretched arms were enough. He “actually believes that there can be such a thing as the brotherhood of man,” said a hard-bitten organizer who confessed himself pained when anyone else called him Comrade. “But when Debs says Comrade, it’s all right. He means it.” Families in wagons with red flags stuck in the whip sockets came for miles across the prairies to greet the Red Special at railroad stops. Torchlight parades in the towns, mass meetings, children with bouquets of red roses, created an illusion in which Debs himself began to believe. Socialists, he wrote to a friend, are “thick as grasshoppers out here” and the farmers “are revolutionary to the core and ripe and ready for action.” The “plutes” would get a shock when the votes were counted. But the total vote proved disappointing: 400,000, no more than in 1904.
In 1910 on the wave of the general Reform movement in the United States, Victor Berger, the first Socialist to win a seat in Congress, was elected from Milwaukee together with a Socialist city attorney, Socialist comptroller, two Socialist judges and twenty-one Socialist aldermen out of thirty-five. In 1911 a Socialist mayor was elected in Schenectady and by 1912 the party had elected mayors in fifty-six municipalities. But these were victories of Revision and the successful candidates were intellectuals—lawyers, editors, ministers—not workingmen. The labour movement at both wings, IWW and AF of L, refused to enter politics. In 1912 when the major parties engaged in a three-cornered contest for the Presidency, Debs ran again. Again it seemed, as Victor Berger wrote in the Milwaukee Leader, that Socialism was the coming order and “we are speeding toward it with the accelerating velocity of a locomotive.” Touring New York’s Lower East Side, Debs stood on a truck which “slowly plowed its way through a roaring ocean of people as far as the eye could see all up and down dark tenement streets.” The vote was 900,000, double that of the time before, though only 6 per cent of the total. The IWW won its greatest victory that year in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where it organized a strike of textile workers against a pay cut. It fed and maintained an entire town of workers and their dependents for two months and won a wage increase. But the bitter and brutal defeat of the Paterson strike shortly afterwards began the decline of American Syndicalism.
In Germany Syndicalist doctrine of the general strike took little hold. Like other German institutions the unions were too orderly to be attracted by a measure which was the negation of all order and duty. The working class, whom Kuno Francke in 1905 lauded as so “well-behaved,” shared the attachment to authority and obedience which in Germany seemed overdeveloped, as if, without its protection, some old Teutonic savagery, some inner Hun, might break out. The German Socialists were realistic about the general strike. Bebel opposed its use for political purposes because, he said, it could only be organized under extraordinary conditions to the accompaniment of a revolutionary state of mind among the workers. Among his countrymen, as he was only too aware, this was missing. When the Radicals of the party at its Mannheim Congress in 1906 proposed a Massenstreik in case of war, Bebel rejected it as futile. In the event of war, he said, the military would take over law and order, resistance would be folly and chauvinist fever in any event would grip the masses. Bebel, at least, never fed on, or encouraged, illusions.
At Mannheim a crucial if quiet struggle for power took place with results decisive for German and, through it, for world Socialism. Kautsky offered a resolution intended to subordinate the trade unions to the party in matters of policy. Their task, as Kautsky defined it, was to defend and improve the lot of the worker until the final advent of Socialism. Since the task of the party was achievement of the long-term maximum goal, its decisions must predominate.
During the past decade membership in the German unions had increased from 250,000 to 2,500,000, with funds in proportion. Unlike the French, they were in close communion with the party and its chief source of votes. Sam Gompers on his tour of Europe in 1909 was impressed by the cash benefits the unions paid in strikes and lockouts, by their organization and discipline, and by the improved conditions and increased wages they had won. Day labourers earned three marks and skilled labour six marks a day, or about thirty-six shillings or eight or nine dollars a week. Mealtimes were regulated, fines and penalties posted on the bulletin board, the right to organize was recognized by the government except for servants and farm labour; child labour under thirteen was outlawed and between the ages of thirteen and fourteen was restricted to six hours a day. Gratified that such progress disproved the Marxist theory of “increasing misery,” Gompers was inspired to a paean of optimism by the status of the German worker, who appeared to him to live in an age of “the greatest production, the most wealth, the highest general intelligence and the best reasons for hope for his class that the history of the world has recorded.” Even if, in his anti-Marxist enthusiasm, Gompers overstated the case, the German worker was clearly acquiring a stake in the existing order. The effect was not conducive to revolutionary ardor in the unions. The fear that they were becoming too embedded in the existing order inspired Kautsky’s resolution to subordinate them to the political control of the party.
His motion was firmly defeated by the majority at Mannheim for fear of offending the trade unions. It was all very well to let Kautsky formulate theory, but when it came to practical matters the General Council of the party was nothing if not realistic. Defeat of the resolution meant, in effect, a victory for the trade unions. Since Kautsky’s analysis had been correct, it also meant, in the country of dominant Socialist influence, preference for the existing order over the final goal. Bernstein’s onetime heresy “I care nothing for the final goal …” was now canonical. After Mannheim, day-to-day activity became increasingly practical and revisionist, even while party declarations at Congresses and ceremonial occasions continued to reiterate the Marxist formulas.
Nationalism came in with the rising Revisionist tide. In the Reichstag on April 25, 1907, shortly before the opening of the Hague Conference, a Socialist deputy, Gustav Noske, made the trend explicit in a speech which caused a sensation. It was a “bourgeois illusion,” he announced, to suppose that all Socialists believed in disarmament. While they looked forward to peace in the future, international economic conflicts at present were too strong to permit disarming. Socialists would resist just as vigorously as the gentlemen on the right any attempt by another nation to press Germany to the wall. “We have always demanded an armed nation,” he said to the astonished gasps of his colleagues and the equally astonished delight and applause of the Right. Indignantly repudiated by Kautsky, who with considerable courage said that in the event of war, German Social-Democrats would regard themselves as proletarians first and Germans second, Noske nevertheless found many followers.
In Germany as in England the topic of coming conflict between the two countries was fashionable, fomented by the Navy League’s slogans, “The Coming War!” “England the Foe!” “England’s Plan to Fall on Us in 1911!” and the Pan-German accompaniment, “To Germany belongs the world!” In every country as the air thickened with talk of war, the instinct of patriotism swelled. Older, deeper, more instinctive than any class solidarity, it was not something easily eradicated on the say-so of the Communist Manifesto. Unhappily for world brotherhood, the worker felt he had a fatherland like anybody else.
In strident dispute, a voice, expressing the opposite tendency from Noske in Germany, was raised in France. It came from the Socialist Gustave Hervé, a shrieking prophet of anti-patriotism and anti-militarism. Once a follower of Déroulède, he had swung to the opposite extreme and attained national notoriety by his declaration during the Dreyfus Affair that as long as military barracks existed he would hope to see the tricolor flag planted upon the dunghill in their courtyards. This led to his dismissal as a teacher and trial for incitement to mutiny in which he was successfully defended by Briand. Regarding the mystique of patrie as a Moloch sucking workers into its armored jaws where they shed each other’s blood, Hervé continued his campaign against army and country, undaunted by further trials and a term in jail. “We shall reply to the mobilization order by revolt!” he screamed. “Civil war is the only war that is not stupid.” At the French Socialist party Congress of 1906, in the midst of the first Moroccan crisis, and again at the Congress of 1907, he embodied these sentiments in a resolution. All the Syndicalist intellectuals, devotees of Sorel, Bergson and Nietzsche, rallied to his support. They were the cultists of the “myth” of the general strike, not the men who would be called upon to practice it, for these were not present. The CGT did not come to congresses of the SFIO, and in any case it designed the general strike for purposes of revolution, not prevention of war.
Representing the diehard Marxists, Guesde led the opposition to Hervé on the ground that since war was inherent in the capitalist system and the predecessor of its death-throes, it was futile, and for Socialists self-defeating, to prevent it.
Jaurès, as the party’s leading figure, had to guide the Congress to a position. With his faith that a good society was within man’s grasp, he saw war as the great wrecker; not the opportunity of the working class, but the enemy of the workingman. To prevent it was to become, in the years ahead, his primary aim. He had long maintained that the general strike, unless well organized both as to means and ends, was “revolutionary romanticism,” yet at the same time it was the only way the working class could make its power felt to prevent a threatened war. He was also inclined to support it because, in maintaining the precarious unity of the SFIO, it was important to make concessions to the Syndicalist-minded wing. No less a man of this world than Bebel, Jaurès remained also an idealist and dealt with the problem of the general strike by persuading himself that if war loomed, somehow the masses would be stirred by the necessary fervor to rise in spontaneous and effective protest without previous planning or organization. In this one area, a crucial one, Jaurès came closest to thinking “with his beard.” He agreed to a resolution less explicit than Hervé’s, but committing French Socialism to all forms of agitation against war, including parliamentary action, public meetings, popular protests, “even the general strike and insurrection.”
It was rhetoric, but Jaurès believed or persuaded himself that “ceaseless agitation” could make it come true. He did not content himself with hoping but practiced agitation at Socialist mass meetings and on speaking tours throughout France. From this time on, at Toulouse, Lille, Dijon, Nîmes, Bordeaux, Guise, Reims, Avignon, Toulon, Marseille, and of course Carmaux, “at every railroad station in France, it seemed, Jaurès descended from a train at one time or another, suitcase in hand, the great salesman of peace.” Abroad too, in London, in Brussels and other foreign capitals, his voice poured forth as if trying physically to lift his listeners to a fervor that could be translated into action if need arose. On one trip to England in company with Vandervelde they visited Hatfield, home of the Cecils, which Jaurès said interested him more than Oxford.
The problem of war, the effort to reconcile the trends between the extremes of Hervé and Noske dominated Socialism from now on. It came to a head at once at the next Congress, convened for the first time on German soil, in August, 1907. Although the working class of Berlin was a stronghold of Socialism, the party’s leaders did not venture to hold the Congress in the capital under the nose of the Kaiser. The site they chose was Stuttgart, capital of Württemberg in South Germany. Eight hundred and eighty-six delegates representing twenty-six nations or nationalities assembled in the largest auditorium of the city. Among them were Ramsay MacDonald from England, De Leon and Big Bill Haywood from the United States, Plekhanov, Lenin, Trotsky and Alexandra Kollontay for the various Russian factions, Mme Kama of India, the “Red virgins,” Rosa Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin, and among the polyglot translators, Angelica Balabanov from Italy accompanied by a “violently protesting bullish young man with a dark face,” Benito Mussolini. As a demonstration of Socialist strength an outdoor demonstration was held on the opening day, a Sunday, in a field outside the city. Workingmen and their families came from all around, filling the streets leading to the field where a dozen red-draped platforms had been set up for the speakers. Bands played and choral societies sang Socialist hymns while vigilant police watched over the proceedings from two captive balloons. By 2 P.M. a crowd of fifty thousand had gathered to listen to the Socialist celebrities amid “extraordinary enthusiasm but no disorder.” In his speech Bebel congratulated the British proletariat on its recent brilliant success at the polls, remarking with perhaps a touch of envy that while the Government had cleverly made John Burns a member of the Cabinet, he was sure it had not succeeded in changing the party’s fighting tactics. Loud cheers greeted Jaurès’ speech, delivered in German. Though he could memorize a German translation of his speech after one reading or recite long passages of Goethe by heart, he could not command enough colloquial German to engage a hotel room.
Afterwards in the hall amid the admirable German arrangements everyone, understandably, had a sense of deliberating under the eyes of the police. When Harry Quelch, an English delegate, disrespectfully referred to the Hague Conference, then in session, as a “thieves’ supper,” Chancellor von Bülow, who was not notably respectful toward the Conference himself, brought pressure on the Wüttemberg government to have him expelled. Immediately ill at ease, Bebel did not even protest. Quelch’s empty chair was kept filled with flowers during the remaining sessions.
While the Congress divided as usual into committees on suffrage, women, minorities, immigration, colonialism and other problems, the Committee on Anti-militarism was the focus of attention. The duty of the working class in the face of rising militarism and threat of war, placed on the agenda by the French, unleashed five days of debate. In an opening tirade, Hervé again proposed mass disobedience to mobilization, in effect insurrection. Since this could be transformed into revolution, it was supported by the German Radicals led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, but the official weight of the party, from old Marxists like Bebel and Kautsky to new nationalists of the Noske variety, shifted solidly to the right. Debating “within earshot, so to speak, of the Wilhelmstrasse,” as Vandervelde put it, the Germans muted their customary verbal tornadoes, though not only from discretion; the shift was ideological. Some admittedly, some still pretending otherwise, they were aligning themselves with the national mood, accommodating to the facts of life in an era of national expansion from which the worker derived material benefits. “It is not true that workers have no Fatherland,” declared Georg von Vollmar, a leading Revisionist; “the love of humanity does not prevent us from being good Germans.” He and his group, he said, would not accept an internationalism that was anti-national.
Jaurès proposed the same resolution as had just been adopted by the French Congress, emphasizing “agitation” and including the general strike as a last resort.
To expect an effective general strike without planning or organization was equivalent to expecting an army to march without orders, billets, supply depots, transport, food or ammunition. Even if the Second International could have agreed on a general strike, it had no power to give orders to its national components, each of whom would have had to organize the strike of its own people separately. Unless the action were simultaneous and international, the workers who accomplished it most effectively would only be opening their own country to defeat. As Guesde was forever pointing out, a general strike could only be made effective by the best organized and disciplined labour force. If successful its only result would be to lay open the more modern countries to military defeat by the backward. The dilemma was awful and insoluble. Jaurès kept it at bay because he thought of the general strike more as an idea to kindle the masses than as a real possibility. Walking with Bernstein in one of Stuttgart’s parks, he tried to convince him of the inspiriting value of a declaration in favor of the strike. “All my objections concerned its impracticality,” Bernstein said later, “but he kept coming back to the moral effect of such a commitment.” As Clemenceau was to say long afterwards, it was Jaurès’ fate “to preach the brotherhood of nations with such unswerving faith … that he was not daunted by the brutal reality of facts.”
Bebel opposed the general strike as totally impractical. Tied to the unions, as the French party was not, the German party looked at the strike from the union point of view. Though every member may have been a good Socialist, the unions had no wish to lose their funds in a reckless gesture against the power of the State. Financial reserves to maintain a general strike even in peacetime were not available. To oppose defence of the Fatherland in a nation seized by war fever, Bebel said, would put the Socialists in an impossible position. Even Kautsky agreed. A strike was impossible without consent of the unions, he pointed out. Privately he and like-minded friends comforted themselves, like Jaurès, with the belief that somehow, if war came, the “infuriated” workers would rise against it.
Where was the voice of the worker, the man directly concerned, in all this talk of strike? It was not heard. The worker was at home concerned with the job, the boss, the broken window, the ailing child, tonight’s supper, tomorrow’s holiday. If he thought about a strike it was for wages; if he thought about war it was as some vague grand happening with an aura of excitement and valor. He thought less of striking against it than of marching to it, to smite the foreigner and protect his country. Bebel knew him. “Do not fool yourselves,” he said to an English delegate, and repeated his old assertion that the instant the Fatherland declared itself in danger, “every Social-Democrat will shoulder his rifle and march to the French frontier.”
If Bebel was still the Pope of Socialism it was as a secular Pope; the moral torch had passed to Jaurès, “the greatest hope of the Second International,” in the words of Vandervelde’s opening speech. He was brimming with energy, plunged into a great campaign against war, delighted to be in Germany. Seizing a huge foam-crowned mug at a country beer garden, he said, “Beer! Vandervelde, German beer!” with a fresh enthusiasm that his companion found irresistible. One night, returning from an outing via medieval Tübingen, he insisted on getting out in the pouring rain and darkness, although nothing could be seen, to stand in front of the illustrious University.
Bebel threw the weight of the party against an explicit commitment to the general strike less because he was convinced it was impractical than because he feared reprisals by his Government, perhaps even renewal of the anti-Socialist law. Grown middle-aged and successful since Engels’ warning, “Legality kills us,” his party had no desire to go underground again. In addition to the conflicting French resolutions, he had also to contend against the Radicals of his own party assisted by a formidable partner. Pointing him out to a friend, Rosa Luxemburg said, “That’s Lenin. Observe his obstinate self-willed skull.” Together she and he were determined that any resolution taken by the Congress on militarism should remind the working class of its duty to transform war into revolution. In private sessions Lenin engaged in prolonged negotiations with Bebel, who insisted that there should be “nothing in the resolution that would enable the public prosecutor in Berlin to outlaw the party.” After many rewordings and discussions which Lenin found overlong but rich in dialectic, a satisfactory formula was worked out and tacked on to the main resolution.
As drafted by a committee under Bebel’s direction, the final result managed to accommodate all points of view, short of Hervé’s insurrectionary strike, in a form calculated neither to alarm the public prosecutor in Berlin nor alienate any important section of the Congress. Bebel had prevailed. The resolution did not mention general strike. It reaffirmed the class struggle, the nature of war as inherent in capitalism and the demand for citizen armies to replace standing armies, but stated that “the International is not in a position to prescribe in a rigid form the action to be taken by the working class against militarism.” It recommended the usual “ceaseless agitation” and declared in favor of arbitration and disarmament. The addition sponsored by Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg, pruned to respectability, pledged the working classes and their parliamentary representatives to exert their utmost efforts to prevent the outbreak of war “by using the means which seem most effective to them”; if war should nevertheless break out they were to work for its speedy termination and meanwhile “exploit the crisis with all their strength thereby to hasten the abolition of capitalism.”
In 1909 a people suddenly rose in a strike against war with tragic results. It was not an organized movement but, as in the Russian rising of 1905, a spontaneous outbreak. Red Week in Barcelona, called by the Spaniards la semana tragica, was a mass protest against the conscription of soldiers for a campaign in Morocco which was considered by the workers a war in the interests of the Riff mine-owners. A strike initiated by the Labour Federation of Barcelona became overnight an outpouring of the people themselves, especially the women, against war, rulers, reaction, the Church and all the elements of an oppressive regime. Stamped out in gunfire and blood, the rising aroused Socialist wrath over the trial and execution of one man, Francisco Ferrer, but excited no concern for the problems or techniques of revolt.
In the same year, a general strike was called by the National Federation of Labour in Sweden in protest against the increasing use of lockouts by employers. Involving nearly 500,000 strikers and lasting a month, it was broken by the Government’s threat of permanent dismissal and loss of pensions and by the success of the upper classes in organizing brigades to carry on essential services. Activity was easier to organize than the inactivity of folded arms.
In the same year, the shadow of war moved nearer when Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina in a challenge which Russia, not yet recovered from her troubles, had to swallow, the more so as the Kaiser proclaimed his stand in “shining armor” at his ally’s side. Austrian Socialists could not resist a thrill of national pride. The Socialist Arbeiter-Zeitung of Vienna published a series of chauvinist articles which caused the Serbian bourgeois press malicious joy in pointing out that international solidarity of the working class was not so solid as supposed.
In England the anti-German wave swept up Blatchford, who for all his Socialism had, as an old soldier, supported the Boer War. With Hyndman he now conducted a campaign for conscription in his paper, the Clarion. Branding them as betrayers of Socialism, Keir Hardie still believed “absolutely that organized labour would never take part in another orgy of workmen’s blood.” Nor was he alone. The mystique of the working class standing as one, in heroic consciousness of itself, was strong. Sam Gompers, born to the working class himself like Hardie, and concerned all his life with workingmen and their affairs, believed in it. When he came to Europe to attend an international Trade Union Congress in 1909, the primary impression he took away was “the fact of the solidarity today in the sentiment of the masses of Europe.” Still the unconscious Socialist, he believed the struggle of the workers for their rights would take precedence “over wars between nations in which working men have no cause.” He knew and stated in another context that a general strike was “impossible in the current stage of organized labour”; nevertheless he too felt sure of a “deep seated resolve” among his class to refuse to take military duty’s last step of shooting down their fellow workers. The spirit of the international trade-union congresses where delegates talked and broke bread together would, he wrote, spread back through their reports to all organized workers, who would understand and refuse to kill each other. “Even the unorganized” would read the accounts and listen to the returning delegates and take up this spirit of refusal. Statesmen knew very well that their next order, “To the front!” would be followed by “mass demonstrations for peace”—Gompers did not venture to say mass disobedience. “It is the general consensus of opinion,” he concluded, “that the final obstacle to a war of nations in Europe today is the determined adverse attitude of the workers in the different countries.”
Gompers was as practical and toughminded as any man who ever lived, but the age he lived in was sentimental. That, like Jaurès, he could believe in a final Halt! accomplished by “mass demonstrations” showed the extent to which the idea of the working class as Hero had taken hold.
His purpose in coming to Europe was to affiliate the AF of L with the International Federation of Trade Unions. If any action by organized labour was to make itself felt against war, this was the only body which could supply it, supposing it possessed both the will and the means. It had neither. Founded in 1903 at the suggestion of English and French unions but opposed by the Germans, it represented twenty-seven federations of trades or industries with a membership of over seven million in nineteen countries. The figures were more imposing than its real functions, which were chiefly secretarial. It kept member unions informed of trade conditions and did its best to frustrate employers’ efforts to recruit foreign strikebreakers. To conciliate the large and well-financed German unions, its headquarters were in Germany and Carl Legien, chief of the German National Federation of Trade Unions, was its Secretary. At its biennial Congresses, political and social questions, usually brought forward by the French, were not welcomed. In 1909 the Federation raised a strike aid fund of $643,000 for the Swedish general strike, most of it coming from the German and Scandinavian unions and very little from the British, French or American. Solidarity was less than total. With German influence strong and with a non-political orientation, it was not a body to interest itself in ideas of an international general strike.
One of its strongest units was the International Transportworkers’ Federation of seamen, dockers and railwaymen. Founded in 1896, it represented forty-two unions in sixteen countries with a membership of 468,000. It was on the ITF that Keir Hardie, who like Jaurès had become primarily concerned with the problem of war, rested his hopes of an international strike in the event of war. If the transport workers alone, or together with the miners’ International, downed tools, he believed they could stop a war. Here again the problem was simultaneous action in all countries, but Hardie’s fervor carried him over that and he brought his proposal forward at the next Socialist Congress, held in Copenhagen in August, 1910.
As host city to the International in 1910 Copenhagen was a symbol of the importance Socialism had reached. The Danish Socialist Party, one of the strongest of the small countries, controlled the municipal government of the capital. The committee, determined to impress the world by its organization and efficiency, gave magnificent receptions and a Socialist mayor delivered the address of welcome. Replying in a voice of “ripe sonority which makes hearts vibrate,” Vandervelde expressed the delegates’ sense of a great occasion when “a free people, masters of their City Hall, welcomes the Red International.” Socialist voters in the world now numbered eight million. French Socialists were fresh from an electoral victory in May in which they had won over a million votes and increased their deputies from 54 to 76. Although it was not a matter for unmixed pride, Briand, still calling himself an Independent Socialist, was actually Premier. Socialism seemed to have reached a stage to exercise effectively the “awful conscience” of mankind.
At Copenhagen it spoke through Keir Hardie, who proposed a resolution jointly with Edouard Vaillant of France, recommending that “the affiliated Parties and Labour organizations consider the advisability and feasibility of the general strike, especially in industries that supply war material, as one of the methods of preventing war and that action be taken on the subject at the next Congress.” When proposing it, Hardie acknowledged that the workers were not ready to strike against war but he clung to the hope that they would be ready when the time came. “We must give them a great lead,” he said. His resolution was supported by Vandervelde and by Jaurès, who was the more disposed to be sympathetic because he was in the midst of an effective effort, which partly depended on acceptance of the general strike, to draw the CGT closer to the SFIO. Further, his concern over the bureaucratic trend of the German party led him increasingly to consider the need for mass tactics.
The Germans and Austrians were solidly opposed to Hardie’s motion on the same ground as before: that to advocate a strike in the event of war might lead to prosecution for treason and confiscation of funds. Bebel, ill and growing old, was absent, but even without him, German pressure secured a negative vote. As a compromise the resolution was referred to the Bureau in Brussels for reconsideration at the next Congress. To go on record even to this extent worried the Germans. They were only reluctantly persuaded to agree by Vandervelde’s argument that if they refused, the British and French might pursue the plan independently. A resolution on anti-militarism was passed, virtually the same as that of Stuttgart, with the addition that organized labour in member countries “shall consider whether a general strike should not be proclaimed if necessary in order to prevent the crime of war.” As nervously if not quite as quickly as capitalists had disposed of Disarmament at The Hague, Socialists disposed of the general strike.
Within weeks hard proof was given of labour’s inability to win a transport strike. In France in October Premier Briand broke a general strike of railwaymen against all private and state-operated lines by conscripting the workers into the army for a period of three weeks, making absence from work subject to a charge of military desertion. On the excuse of national defense, Briand defended his action as dictated by a patriotic conscience. Even to an old Socialist his conscience did not dictate pressure on the companies for the wage increase the railwaymen were demanding.
History had reached 1910. The transfer of power to a new class whose signals Balfour had seen in the British general election of 1906 was a process in the making, not a fact. In a test of strength, as in the French railway strike, labour could not command real power. International action was hallucination. While the Socialists kept on talking about it and believing in it, they were dealing more in a hope and a theory than in flesh and bones. One genuine attempt at international working-class action was made at this time. While the Socialists in Copenhagen were discussing a possible general strike in war industries, the very men who would be crucial to it, the International Transportworkers (ITF), by nature the most international of the unions, were also in session in Copenhagen. Once during the Boer War pro-Boer Dutch members had urged an international boycott of British shipping but the ITF leaders had flatly turned down the proposal on the ground that it was just not possible at that stage to interest workers in an international movement for political purposes. Direct trade union purposes were another matter. Now in 1910 they decided to call an international strike of their own in the following year for redress of grievances against the shipowners.
The active instigators were the British delegates, Ben Tillett and Havelock Wilson, while the German delegate, Paul Muller, was strongly opposed, just as his compatriots were simultaneously opposing Keir Hardie’s proposal at the Socialist congress. A seamen’s strike at the present moment, Muller said, would be “absolutely insane” and would certainly end disastrously. The masters would triumph, the union leaders would lose their influence, the men would become destitute and would ultimately have to sue for peace on their knees. Since a shipping strike, like a strike against war, would operate to the advantage of the shipping trade in the countries whose unions did not go out, and since the Germans and British were rivals in shipping, the international principle was vital. Heavy pressure brought Herr Muller around and the Congress voted unanimously for a seamen’s strike against the “brutal and callous” refusal of the shipowners in all countries to discuss the unions’ demands for a conciliation board. All agreed that the strike “must and would be international.”
At subsequent meetings of the seamen’s committee at Antwerp in November and the following March, the British stated they would definitely strike in 1911 and the Belgians, Dutch, Norwegians and Danes pledged their support. The Germans, now claiming that they had no reason to strike, backed out. The date was set for June 14. In the meantime the Danes and Norwegians retired, the former because they had succeeded in winning a favorable five-year agreement and the latter because, on their demands being turned down, they felt themselves too weak to enforce them. In what developed into the great Transport strike of Coronation summer, the British struck anyway, along with the Belgians and Dutch, whose action was overshadowed by the dramatic British effort. Sympathetic action in other Continental ports was organized by the ITF, which prevented recruitment of strikebreakers and helped the British seamen win their demands. As a whole, however, the strike solidarity originally contemplated was not reached. As if in preview, the ITF endeavor of 1911 showed what might be expected of the working class in international action.
Socialism with steadfast heart remained, nevertheless, predicated in the event of war on a “rising” of the workers of the world. In this it shared the tendency of the age to clothe reality in sentimental garments. The public of the time was not represented by those doctors, writers and social psychologists who were beginning to look at man without illusions. These were the advance guard, as were “seers of black” like Wedekind. The public preferred the rosy view: the perfect pearly nudes of Bouguereau, the impossibly handsome Gibson girls—creatures that never were on land or sea. So, in their own way, did the Socialists.
The rosy view predominated in Germany, where in the general election of 1912 the Social-Democrats won an astounding 35 per cent of the total vote, amounting to 4,250,000 votes and 110 seats. The party was growing so fast and seemed so powerful that to other Socialists it appeared “irresistible” and the moment near and certain when the Socialist movement in Germany would “include the majority of the people and burst the fetters of the feudal-capitalist state.” The existence of so many Social-Democrats in the country meant a proportionate increase of their numbers in the armed forces, leading to a time, surely, when it would be impossible for the Army to be used against the workers.
But the discrepancy between size and actual influence which Jaurès had brought into the open at the Amsterdam Congress, remained, indeed grew more noticeable as the size of the party swelled. The uses to which the German parliamentary Socialists put their electoral triumph of 1912 were not impressive. When the Government that year increased its forces by three Army corps, they opposed the enabling bill but did not venture so far as to oppose the tax which was to pay for it. When one of their number, Philipp Scheidemann, was elected First Vice-President of the Reichstag, his announcement that he would not join in the official call on the Kaiser touched off a new version of the knee-breeches debate. All the parties, not only the Socialists, took part. The vital question at issue was whether Scheidemann would make the call if the Second Vice-President were absent and whether Bebel had or had not agreed that the Socialists could join in the customary cheers for their Sovereign. In the upshot, Scheidemann’s principles caused his election to be cancelled, thus averting serious problems.
Within the body of Social-Democracy, Revision was keeping pace with the growing nationalism of the country. Socialism’s very success turned its sights away from the maximum program, toward the minimum and the possible. The red dawn of revolution receded. Believers repeated the Marxist formulas with untamed ardor, but conviction had passed to those who were still “illegals”—the Russians. At a meeting of the Leipzig left-wingers, a visiting Austrian Socialist referred to his hosts as revolutionaries. “We revolutionaries?” interrupted Franz Mehring. “Bah! Those are the revolutionaries,” he said, nodding at Trotsky, who was a guest.
For Jaurès the overriding task had become the need to forge and impose a policy for preventing war in terms compatible both with the defence of France and faith in Socialism. In his country too, nationalism, revanche, the belligerent spirit, was rising. The pressure of Germany was omnipresent, the shadow of Sedan lengthening. To logical extremists like Guesde, peace and the interests of the working class were not necessarily equivalent, but to Jaurès they were. He now believed that the only way consistent with Socialism to meet the threat of war was through a citizen army. When the whole nation was an army of reserves, with everyone having taken six months’ basic training, and with officers drawn from the ranks, the nation could not be drawn into belligerency in the interest of capitalist warmongers. In a war of defence against invasion only such an army of the whole nation, he argued, could hope to repel the terrible “submersion” that German use of reserves in the front line was preparing.
Jaurès’ campaign was not merely Socialist oratory. As in Les Preuves in the Dreyfus Affair, he set about demonstrating the practicability of his case, studying and working out, over a period of three years, the means of reorganizing the military establishment. He embodied the results in a bill submitted to the Chamber in November, 1910, and in a book of seven hundred pages, l’Armée Nouvelle, published in 1911. Preaching his cause tirelessly in the Chamber, in l’Humanité, the Socialist paper of which he was founder and director, in meetings and lectures, he was thunderously abused as a “traitor,” pro-German and “pacifist” by the cohorts of the Right, particularly by the vituperative Action Française.
The Balkans, where the interests of Russia and Austria clashed, was, as everyone knew, the hot-box of Europe. When in October, 1912, the Balkan League of Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro, encouraged by Russia, declared war on Turkey, it seemed the awful moment had come. In Belgrade, Trotsky watched the 18th Serbian Infantry marching off to war in uniforms of the new khaki color. They wore bark sandals and a sprig of green in their caps, which gave them a look of “men doomed for sacrifice.” Nothing so brought home to him the meaning of war as those sprigs of green and bark sandals. “A sense of the tragedy of history took possession of me, a feeling of impotence before fate, of compassion for the human locust.”
To demonstrate the unity of the workers of the world against war, the Bureau in Brussels convened an emergency Congress to meet in Basle on the Swiss border between France and Germany on November 24 and 25. Five hundred and fifty-five delegates hastened to Basle from twenty-three countries. A manifesto drawn up in advance by the Bureau was voted unanimously, proclaiming “readiness for any sacrifice” against war, without specifying what. Addresses by Keir Hardie, Adler, Vander-velde and all Socialism’s most inspiring orators culminated in a speech by Jaurès, tacitly acknowledged by now the most influential figure of the movement. Bebel, though present, was in decline and making what proved to be his last international appearance.
Jaurès spoke from the pulpit of the Cathedral, given over to the Congress by the ecclesiastical authorities despite bourgeois fears of “dangerous” consequences. The sound of the church bells, he said, reminded him of the motto of Schiller’s “Song of the Bells”;Vivos voco, mortuos plango, fulgura frango (I summon the living, I mourn the dead, I break the furnaces). Leaning forward urgently, he spoke to the upturned faces: “I call on the living that they may defend themselves from the monster who appears on the horizon. I weep for the countless dead now rotting in the East. I will break the thunderbolts of war which menace from the skies.”
As it happened, these particular thunderbolts were broken by capitalist statesmen who summoned a Conference in London in December, 1912, which limited and, when reconvened in the following May, settled the war before it could expand into conflict between Russia and Austria.
In March, 1913, in a measure directly contrary to Jaurès’ campaign, France acted to enlarge her Army by restoring the period of military service from two years to three. Jaurès threw all his energies into battle against it and in favor of the nation-in-arms. For the next six months the Three-Year Law was the dominant fact of French life. Enactment became the rallying cry of nationalism and resistance to it the symbol of the Left. Jaurès denounced the measure in the Chamber as “a crime against the Republic” and drew a crowd of 150,000 to an open-air protest meeting. Leadership of the opposition marked him as the outstanding spokesman for peace. As such he was made the object of further attack as a pacifist and pro-German. After seven weeks of furious debate, the Law was enacted on August 7. Persisting, as he had done through six years of embittered struggle after Rennes until Dreyfus and Picquart were reinstated, Jaurès now led the movement for repeal.
Bebel died that year at seventy-three. In a procession lasting three days, workers and Socialists from many countries filed past the coffin surrounded by hundreds of wreaths and bunches of red flowers. Leadership of the party went to his chosen successor, Hugo Haase, a lawyer and deputy from Königsburg. In August, 1913, in the presence of Andrew Carnegie, and representatives of forty-two states affiliated with the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Peace Palace was opened at The Hague in what The Times called“the happiest circumstances.” A survey of French student life in 1913 remarked that the word “War” had a fascination which “the eternal warrior instinct in the heart of man keeps reviving.”
Working-class strength continued to grow. Union membership in Germany and Great Britain each reached three million by 1914 and one million in France. The Socialists of Denmark were the largest single party; in Italy Socialists increased their seats in parliament from 32 to 52 in the election of 1913; in France from 76 to 103 in the election of April, 1914. Belgian Socialists, besides electing 30 deputies and seven senators, held 500 municipal council seats. Long frustrated by the stubborn resistance of the ruling class to equal suffrage, they felt themselves strong enough at last to enforce their demand by a general strike. Against impatient radicals who wanted immediate action, Vandervelde and his associates insisted on long and careful preparation; even so, although 400,000 workers joined the strike and stayed out for two weeks, they could not prevail and the strike failed.
The Tenth Congress of the Second International was scheduled for August, 1914, in Vienna, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the First International and the twenty-fifth of the Second. Faith in its purpose and its goal were high. In May a Franco-German Committee of Socialist deputies, including Jaurès and Hugo Haase, met at Basle to discuss measures for rapprochement between their countries. Their intention was good but its limit was talk. In England Keir Hardie in the midst of a speech to a conference of the ILP in April turned suddenly to face rows of children from Socialist Sunday Schools, seated behind the platform. Speaking directly to them, he pictured the loveliness of the world of nature and of the world of man as it could become. He spoke of how unnecessary were war and poverty and how he had tried to pass on to them a better world and how, although he and his associates had failed, they, the children, could yet succeed. “If these were my last words I would say them to you: Live for that better day.”
At the end of June, news that Serbian patriots had assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, in an obscure town in the annexed territory of Bosnia, provided a sensation of the kind to which Europe was accustomed. It passed without causing undue public alarm. Then suddenly, a month later, on July 24, with terrible impact, came the announcement that Austria had delivered an ultimatum to Serbia of such “brutality,” in the words of Vorwärts, the German Socialist paper, that “it can be interpreted only as a deliberate attempt to provoke war.” Full-scale crisis opened beneath Europe’s feet. Would it be another like Agadir and the Balkan War, hot with challenge and maneuver but finally fended off? People waited in desperate hope. “We relied on Jaurès,” wrote Stefan Zweig long afterwards, to organize the Socialists to stop the war.
Socialist leaders consulted. To wait to make a demonstration at Vienna a month hence might be too late. A readiness, a sense of gathering belligerence, could be felt in the atmosphere. The Bureau of Brussels summoned an emergency meeting of leading members for July 29. Jaurès, Hugo Haase, Rosa Luxemburg, Adler, Vandervelde, Keir Hardie and representatives of the Italian, Swiss, Danish, Dutch, Czech and Hungarian parties and of the several Russian factions, about twenty in all, assembled with a “sense of hopelessness and frustration.” What could they do? How could they make the will of the working class felt? What indeed was that will? No one asked that question for none doubted that it was for peace, but one answer had already been given two days earlier in Brussels at a congress of trade unions attended by Léon Jouhaux, head of the CGT, and Carl Legien, the German trade-union chief. Jouhaux tried anxiously to find out what the German unions would do. The French, said Jouhaux, would call a strike if the Germans would, but Legien remained silent. In any case no plans had been prepared.
All week the Socialist press of every country roared against militarism, urged the working class of all nations to “stand together,” to “combine and conquer” the militarists, to engage in “ceaseless agitation” as planned by the International. La Bataille Syndicaliste, organ of the French unions, stated: “Workers must answer the declaration of war by a revolutionary general strike.” Workers poured out to mass meetings, listened to exhortations, marched and shouted, but of desire to strike there was no sign as there had been no plan.
On a rainy day in Brussels the Socialist leaders met in a small hall of the Maison du Peuple, the proud new building of the Belgian labour movement with its theatre, offices, committee rooms, café and shops of the cooperatives. As they met they learned that Austria had declared war on Serbia but that other nations were not yet engaged. The hope that somehow the workers would rise—the “somehow” to which they had clung for so long—was all that remained. Each delegate hoped his neighbor would bring news of some great spontaneous outbreak in his country expressing the workers’ No! Adler’s speech brought no hope of a rising in Austria. Haase, too restless to sit still, reported protests and mass meetings in Germany and assured his colleagues that “the Kaiser does not want war; not from love of humanity but from cowardice. He is afraid of the consequences.” Jaurès gave an impression of “one who, having lost all hope of a normal solution, relies on a miracle.” Hardie was certain that the British transport workers would call a strike but his confidence was assumed. A few weeks earlier he had written, “Only the binding together of the Trade Union and the Socialist movements will ever put the workers into a position of controlling Governments, thus bringing war to an end.” The one country where such binding had taken place was Germany. The delegates talked all day but the only decision reached was to advance the date and change the place of the Vienna Congress to August 9 in Paris, there to resume discussion.
That evening a mass meeting was held in the Cirque Royale crowded by Belgian working people from all parts of the city and its suburbs. As the leaders mounted the platform Jaurès stood with his arm around Haase’s shoulders in a gesture which denied the enmity of Germany and France. When he spoke at the climax of the meeting his eloquence mounted until the hall shook with the force of it. He was “quivering, so intense was his emotion, his apprehension, his eagerness to avoid somehow the coming conflict.” When he had finished, the crowd, on waves of enthusiasm, poured into the streets to form a parade. Carrying white cards inscribed “Guerre à la guerre!” they alternately shouted the slogan and sang “The International” as they marched.
Next day, as the delegates departed, Jaurès, taking leave of Vander-velde, reassured him. “It will be like Agadir—ups and downs—but it is impossible that matters will not be settled. Come, I have a few hours before my train. Let’s go to the Museum and see the Flemish primitives.” But Vandervelde, who was leaving for London, could not go and never saw Jaurès again. On the train returning to Paris, exhausted from the strain, Jaurès fell asleep. A companion, Jean Longuet, looking at his “wonderful face,” was “suddenly overcome with a feeling … that he was dead. I froze with fright.” On arrival, however, Jaurès woke up and, still persisting, went to the Chamber to talk among the deputies and to the office of I’Humanité to write a column for the morning.
Angelica Balabanov and other delegates who left Brussels by another train were breakfasting in the station restaurant at Basle next morning when two comrades of the German Central Committee rushed by in obvious excitement. “There is no doubt about war now,” said one of the delegates who had just talked with the Germans outside. “They came here to put the money of the German party in safe-keeping.” In Berlin that day Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg assured the Prussian Ministry of State that there was “nothing particular to fear from the Social-Democratic party” and “there would be no talk of a general strike or of sabotage.”
In Paris on July 31, the day of Germany’s ultimatum to Russia and declaration of Kriegsgefahr, or preliminary mobilization, the public was tense with the knowledge that France stood on the edge of war. The Cabinet was in continuous session, the German Ambassador arrived and departed ominously from the Foreign Office, the life of the country was in suspense. Jaurès led a Socialist deputation to the office of the Premier, his former comrade, Viviani, and returned to organize party pressure in the Chamber. At 9 p.m. he left the office of I’Humanité, worn out from anxiety, to have dinner with a group of colleagues at the Café Croissant around the corner in the Rue Montmartre. As he sat eating and talking with his back to the open window, a young man who had been following him since the previous evening appeared in the street outside. Filled, as was later ascertained, with the demented zeal of the superpatriot, he pointed a pistol at the “pacifist” and “traitor” and fired twice. Jaurès slumped to one side and fell forward across the table. Five minutes later he was dead.
The news licked through Paris like a flame. Crowds gathered so quickly in the street outside the restaurant that it took the police fifteen minutes to open a passage for the ambulance. When the body was carried out a great silence fell. As the ambulance clanged away, escorted by policemen on bicycles, a sudden clamor arose, as if to deny the fact of death, “Jaurès! Jaurès! Vive Jaurès!” Elsewhere people were stupefied, numb with sorrow. Many wept in the streets. “My heart is breaking,” said Anatole France when he heard. Informed at its night session by a white-faced aide, the Cabinet was stunned and fearful. Visions rose of working-class riots and civil strife on the eve of war. The Premier issued a public appeal for unity and calm. Troops were alerted but next morning, in the national peril, there was only deep grief and deep quiet. At Carmaux the miners stopped work. “They have cut down a mighty oak,” said one. In Leipzig a Spanish Socialist student at the University wandered blindly through the streets for hours; “everything took on the color of blood.”
The news of Jaurès’ death appeared in the papers on Saturday, August 1. That afternoon Germany and France mobilized. Before evening, groups of reservists, carrying bundles and bouquets of flowers, were marching off to the railway stations as civilians waved and cheered. Enthusiasm and excitement were equal in every country. In Germany on August 3, Socialist deputies held a caucus to decide whether to vote for war credits. Only a few days ago Vorwärts had scorned the pretence of a defensive war. But now the Government talked of the Russian peril and French aggression. Bernstein, the reviser of Marx, assured them that the Government planned to build a “golden bridge” for the Socialists and as proof cited the fact that the Foreign Ministry had extended official condolences in the great loss they had suffered by the death of Jaurès. Of the total of 111 Socialist deputies, only 14, including Haase, Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht and Franz Mehring, were opposed, but they obeyed the strict discipline of the majority. Next day the Social-Democrats voted unanimously with the rest of the Reichstag for war credits.
The Kaiser announced, “Henceforth I know no parties, I know only Germans.” In France M. Deschanel, President of the Chamber, delivering Jaurès’ eulogy before a standing assembly, said, “There are no more adversaries here, there are only Frenchmen.” No Socialist in either parliament disputed these statements of the primary loyalty. Léon Jouhaux, head of the CGT, declared, “In the name of the Syndicalist organizations, in the name of all the workers who have joined their regiments and those, including myself, who go tomorrow, I declare that we go to the field of battle willingly to repel the aggressor.” Before the month was out Vandervelde joined a wartime coalition Government in Belgium and Guesde a Government of “sacred union” in France. Guesde a minister! The tribal pull of patriotism could have had no stronger testimony.
In England where there was less sense of national danger than on the Continent, Keir Hardie, Ramsay MacDonald and a few Liberals spoke out against the decision to fight. Elsewhere there was no dissent, no strike, no protest, no hesitation to shoulder a rifle against fellow workers of another land. When the call came, the worker, whom Marx declared to have no Fatherland identified himself with country, not class. He turned out to be a member of the national family like anyone else. The force of his antagonism which was supposed to topple capitalism found a better target in the foreigner. The working class went to war willingly, even eagerly, like the middle class, like the upper class, like the species.
Jaurès was buried on August 4, the day the war became general. Overhead the bells he had invoked at Basle tolled for him and all the world, “I summon the living, I mourn the dead.”