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Socialist Unity in France. What shall be the attitude of the Socialist Party toward reforms? Shall it work through the ballot, through the labor unions, or in both ways? And shall it welcome or exclude those who are working for the social revolution but who oppose political action? These were the burning questions that enlivened the sessions of the fifth National Congress of the Socialist Party of France, held at Toulouse, October 15 to 18. Socialist unity was attained in France only a short time ago, and the declarations on these questions had not been explicit enough to prevent many opposing views as to the true attitude of the unified party. There wag. therefore a general feeling that it would be necessary eiher to come to some definite understanding or to separate again. Many of the local congresses had sent resolutions for adoption by the national congress. These were all referred to a committee, which found itself unable to agree in advance upon any proposition. It therefore designated two of its members, Tanger, representing the reformists, and Lafargue, who needs no introduction to readers of the Review, to open the discussion. We shall give our own translation from the reports in l’Humanitè, the Socialist daily at Paris, of some of the most interesting passages in the debate. In his opening speech Tanger said:
It certainly seems that two opposite conceptions of Revolution confront each other. Some regard it as an event which will come to pass one day; others regard it as an actual and continuous reality, accomplishing itself through all the acts and all the movements of the proletariat. For those who hold the former view, to prepare for the revolution means to group our forces for the day of battle, and current events are looked on from this sole view-point. They do not absolutely deny the conquests made from day to day, for that is impossible, but they disparage them and support them reluctantly. For the other, to prepare for the Revolution means to organize the workers for acting and living through the ceaseless phases of the fight against capitalist rule. This last view is that of the majority of this committee.... The Socialist Party is the party of the working class. To-day, to-morrow, always, the Party is nothing unless it can keep in contact with the workers, voicing at once their ideal of the future and their present needs.
Paul Lafargue, in presenting the minority report, said:
Parliament represents all the forces of government,-financial, police, military, judicial, used to oppress the working class; that is why we fight parliamentarism.... The whole system is incoherent and anarchical." When we send representatives to parliament it is to fight capitalism and to give the proletariat an admirable battle-field. Jaures, in l'Humanité, was scandalized when I said that the weekly rest-day, old age pensions and reforms of all sorts will not change class conditions. I say so again. In England these reforms, notably shorter hours of labor, were obtained long ago; they have not worked any change in the living conditions of English laborers.... We demand all reforms, but observe that reforms are proposed by capitalist representatives, they are the personal work of capitalist representatives. We say to the radical party which promises reforms and does not put them through that it is a lying, bankrupt party. But reformist work is not the principal work of our party, because it is not revolutionary work.
A prolonged discussion ensued, in which many delegates took part. The greatest difficulty in the way of a unanimous agreement was that some of the reformers demanded that those opposing political action be excluded from the Socialist Party, while some revolutionary unionists held that political action was useless. The speech of Lagardelle, the recognized spokesman of revolutionary unionism, was therefore awaited with intense interest. We quote a few of his sentences:
The aim of socialism is to free the shop from the authority of the employer, and society froin the authority of the state.... There is more revolutionary intelligence, as Vaillant said this morning, in the inass of workers than in the whole Socialist Party.... What then is the function of the Party? It has a part to play like that of the other parties. There are many questions, as of political liberties, finance, colonies, foreign policies, immediate improvements in social legislation, on which it is obliged to say its word. But all these things go on outside the limits of purely socialist activity, and we should definitely state this.... Jaures conceives a new socialist program, a magnificent participation by the working, class in the operation of all sorts of state enterprises, social reforms, and the management of capitalist property. The working class is to hola its share of stocks and bonds in private industries, and send its representatives into the directing boards of vast insurance companies, for example, to be organized by the state. This is the most formidable collaboration of classes, to be produced on the economic field, that was ever dreamed of. The class struggle with which he starts out becomes the intimate union of classes, with the proletarian organizations merged into mixed institutions, half-labor and halfemployer or half-government.
In opposition to this anti-socialist conception of the Party's action, can wo not oppose another, carrying over to the general field of society the new rules of action which arise from the practical experience of the unions? What is the principle to which unionism leads us? The free organization of labor by the laborers. Introduce this into the heart of the State, and you will have reduced its coercive power and disarmed its hostility. Have courage to fight the State, and to aid those of the working class employed in its enter
prises, held in its power, to organize their revolt against it! I know that the tendency of modern society is, in proportion as the collective needs of social life develop, to extend the field of State monopolies and municipal ownership. We might at least maintain the right of workmen employed by the State to their independent organizations. The State has just bought the Western railway. Are you going to demand for the laborers of the Western absolute independence for their labor organization, as revolutoinary unionist ideas would require? or will you leave the laborers under the double authority of the State, political and economic? Or will you carry out the ideas of the reactionary trade unions, and propose a mixed commission to be composed of representatives of the laborers and of the State?.... But I have no illusions, I know these ideas will be resisted bitterly, and I affirm them here only for the principle of the thing. (Interruptions: “That is not socialism”, and “This is certainly surprising”.) Whatever your protests, I see no other possible activity for the Party that can rightly be called real and tangible socialism. And it is quite possible that your resistance to it will weaken..... For there is one power we can not resist, and that is Life.
At the conclusion of three days of debate, the whole subject was referred back to the committee, with instructions to agree resolution upon which all might unite. At first this seemed impossible, but mutual concessions were made, and (except that one reformer refrained from voting) the following resolutions adopted unanimously.
The Socialist Party, Party of the working class and of the social revolution, aims at the conquest of political power for the emancipation of the workers by the destruction of the capitalist system and the abolition of classes.
With its never-ending propaganda it reminds the Proletariat that it will find safety and complete freedom only in a system of collectivism or communism; it carries this propaganda into all circles, to stir up everywhere the spirit of aggressive demand and of combat. It incites the working class to daily effort, constant action, for the improvement of its conditions of life, labor and struggle, for the conquest of new safeguards, new means of action,-precisely because it is a revolutionary party, precisely because it is not stopped in its incessant demands by any regard for the obsolete "rights” of capitalist property, large or small.
It is the party of the most essential, the most active reforms, the only party which can carry its efforts to the point of total reconstruction, the only one which can give to each of labor's demands its full effect, the only party which always can make each reform, each conquest, the starting-point and leverage for broader demands and bolder conquests. And when it points out to the working class, with the utility, the need, the benefit of each reform, also the limits imposed on it by the capitalist environment itself, it is not to discourage immediate effort at realizing reforms; it is to incite the workers to conquer new reforms, and keep them ever conscious, amidst their struggle for better conditions, of the need of total re. construction, of the decisive transformation from capitalist property to collective property.
The way for this transformation is paved by the actual movement of events, by the evolution of the mode of capitalist production, by its extension to all parts of the world, by the accumulation and the concentration of capital, by the progress of machinery and technique, putting at man's disposal forces of production capable of providing amply for all needs. These make possible the emancipation of the wage-working class by the re-conquest of all the means of production and exchange, which it now operates for the profit of a small minority, and which will then be collectively applied to the satisfaction of the wants of all.
Along with this movement of the forces of production, there must inevitably develop an immense effort toward the education and organization of the proletariat. In view of this the Socialist Party recognizes the prime importance of building up labor organizations (unions, co-operatives, etc.,) necessary elements in the transformation of society. For these combats, for these conquests, the Socialist Party employs all means of action, regulating their use by the .deliberate will of a strongly organized proletariat.
The proletariat progresses and frees itself by its direct effort, by its direct, collective, organized action on the employing class and the government, and this direct action includes the general strike, employed to defend the threatened liberties of the workers, to enforce the great demands of labor, as well as every united effort of the organized proletariat in view of capitalist exploitation.
Like all exploited classes throughout history, the proletariat asserts its right of last resort to insurrectional force, but it distinguishes between vast collective inovements which can arise only from a general and deeply-stirred feeling of the proletariat, and skirmishes in which a few laborers recklessly hurl themselves against the whole strength of the capitalist state.
It sets itself, with deliberate, constant effort, to the conquest of political power; it opposes
capitalist parties, with their reactionary, vague or fragmentary programs, the full collectivist and communist affirmation and the ceaseless effort at liberation of the organized proletariat, and it regards it as one essential duty of its militants to work through the ballot, for the increase of the parliamentary and legislative strength of socialism.
We have printed these resolutions in full because we think they are full of valuable suggestions for American socialists. The conquest of political power is not an end in itself, but a means to the destruction of capitalism. The test of membership in the party should therefore turn on the desire to destroy capitalism rather than on an attachment to one particular weapon. To most of us at this day the ballot seems the most available method, and our comrades in France have recognized this, but they have not proscribed those who think differently.
Politics and the Proletariat. The article by Albert E. Averill in this issue of the Review is worth reading because it calls attention to industrial changes now in progress which have a vital relation to the socialist movement. But it is utopian in its unproved' assumption that the proletarian revolt must take a certain predestined form, that of a labor organization of such completeness and complexity that it can take over the whole process of social production as soon as capitalism breaks down. The cold fact is that the industrial organizations of the working class to-day are for the most part reactionary, aiming to maintain the present standard of living for skilled laborers rather than to abolish the wage system. The Industrial Workers of the World, after an imposing start and a checkered existence of three years, does not yet include all the laborers in any one important industry. The Socialist Labor Party, which has always antagonized the actual trade unions and tried to separate the socialists into little unions of their own, has dwindled into puny insignificance. The Socialist Party is the live revolutionary force in the United States. All of these facts tend to show that prophets and theorizers may go wrong by too undivided attention to one hobby. On one really important point involved in this discussion we need only refer our readers to the article by Comrade Adler in last month's Review. As long as the capitalists control the "means of death”, they can and doubtless will crush out ruthlessly the first attempt on the part of labor organizations to operate the "means of life" for themselves instead of for the profit of the capitalists. The work of the Socialist Party is to get control of these "means of death” and use them to protect the evolving labor organizations in their peaceful work of reorganizing the machinery of production.