Imágenes de páginas



Beginning of the Socialist movement: In the early part of the nineteenth century, that splendid century of progress in science and invention, of capitalistic expansion, philosophic individualism, and economic laissez faire, arose the deep-seated and far-reaching popular movement which we call Socialism. Like every other great movement in history, it was at first weak and insignificant. It consisted of little more than a vague groping for a way of escape from the evils of the time. Its adherents were for the most part poor men without influence, victims of poverty and oppression, led by a few idealists. Thus, it was not essentially different from the movements of protest which in all ages have challenged and assailed recognized injustice.

But the new movement soon passed out of this stage of its development, and became a conscious, disciplined force with its positive and negative sides well defined. The rapidly growing industrial system gave a great impetus to science. The principle of universal evolution and the methods of science profoundly influenced every department of human thought and activity in the leading countries of the world. Under that influence Socialism took shape as a powerful force aiming at the destruction of an economic system in which a few are enabled to appropriate most of the advantages of industrial effort and progress, and at the development of a new economic system based upon coöperation, democracy and justice, and insuring equality of opportunity to all.

Importance of the movement: In spite of ridicule, ostracism and bitter persecution the Socialist movement has made phenomenal progress. Its representatives are to be found in the parliaments of all the leading nations. The political strength of the movement is indicated by the fact that nearly

ten million votes are cast for its parliamentary representatives throughout the world. Of course, the movement is much stronger numerically than even these figures indicate. Making due allowance for the fact that in most countries women do not enjoy the parliamentary franchise, and the further fact that in many countries a large part of the adult male population is also excluded from the right of the franchise by property and other restrictive qualifications, it is probably a conservative estimate that forty million adults are Socialists and would vote for Socialist representatives if they could. Obviously, such a movement demands and deserves serious and candid investigation and study. To be effectively and efficiently supported if good and wise it must be understood. To be effectively and efficiently opposed if evil and unwise it must likewise be understood. An understanding of the principles of Socialism, of the aims and methods of the movement, has become an essential condition of intelligent citizenship. The wilful and ignorant misrepresentation of Socialism in which many of its opponents have indulged is not only powerless to check the progress of the movement, but extremely dangerous. Nothing is more dangerous in a democracy than appealing to prejudice in the discussion of matters of this kind.

Difficulties of definition: It is not an easy matter to formulate a satisfactory definition of Socialism. The task has been attempted by numerous writers, friendly and otherwise. That the definitions of Socialism by its advocates differ considerably from each other has been made the basis of much rather unreasonable criticism. A definition is simply a brief explanation of the thing defined. When the thing to be defined is at once a comprehensive criticism of society, a philosophy interpreting the social conditions and institutions criticised, a forecast of the future development of society, and a movement with a program based upon these and intended to remove the evils complained of and to bring about the social ideal forecasted, definition is necessarily very difficult and hazardous.

That the definition of one man should over-emphasize the critical aspect of Socialism, that of another its philosophical basis, that of a third its forecast and that of yet another its program is inevitable. The cheap sneer that there are

"fifty-seven varieties of Socialism" is an exceedingly petty criticism. We must bear in mind that difference in definitions is by no means the same thing as contradiction. It is safe to say that the recognized leaders of Socialist thought have defined Socialism with quite as large a degree of unanimity and as small a degree of antagonism as have been shown by the recognized leaders of any department of thought, if we omit those relating to and conditioned by the exact sciences.

Provisional definition: As we have already intimated, Socialism may be conveniently divided into four parts. No study of Socialism can be satisfactory, no definition of it can be complete, which does not consider it as (1) a criticism of existing society; (2) a philosophy of social evolution; (3) a social forecast or ideal; (4) a movement for the attainment of the ideal.

As a provisional definition, then, we may accept the following: Socialism is a criticism of existing society which attributes most of the poverty, vice, crime and other social evils of today to the fact that, through the private or class ownership of the social forces of production and exchange, the actual producers of wealth are exploited by a class of non-producers; a theory of social evolution according to which the rate and direction of social evolution are mainly determined by the development of the economic factors of production, distribution and exchange; a social forecast that the next epoch in the evolution of society will be distinguished by the social ownership and control of the principal agencies of production and exchange, and by an equalization of opportunity as a result of this socialization; a movement, primarily consisting of members of the wealthproducing class, which seeks to control all the powers of the State and to bring about the collective ownership and control of the principal means of production and exchange, in order that poverty, class antagonisms, vice and other ill results of the existing social system may be abolished, and that a new and better social system may be attained.


1. Socialism arose as a movement of protest, and through the acceptance of the principle of evolution became a conscious, disciplined force with a definite aim.

2. Politically, Socialism is represented by a great international party with nearly 10,000,000 voters and 40,000,000 adult sympathizers.

3. Socialism must be considered as a criticism of existing society, as a philosophy of social evolution, as a social forecast or ideal, and as a movement for the attainment of the ideal.


1. In what way has science influenced the character of Socialism.?

2. What is the chief aim of the Socialist movement?

3. Give a provisional definition of Socialism.




Point of view in Socialist criticism: The Socialist criticism of society is essentially constructive and impersonal. This is not always apparent to the casual reader of, or listener to a popular presentation of Socialism, but if the speaker or writer is really representative of Socialism at its best his criticisms of institutions are directed toward the determining economic conditions and their consequences, and his criticism of men has for its purpose the desire to give concrete examples of types and classes as they are affected by economic conditions. Karl Marx makes this perfectly clear in the preface to the first volume of Capital.1

This criticism, moreover, has always the transformation of society through changes in the basic economic conditions as its motive. This assumption of the fundamental economic basis of society and social institutions is essential to Socialism. As we shall see later in our study, psychological and other factors in social evolution are not excluded. They are simply regarded as subordinate to the economic factors.

Socialism and decadent institutions: Socialists do not devote much attention to the criticism of unimportant or decadent institutions. Attempts to direct Socialist attacks to the surviving remnants of feudal society have largely

"I paint the capitalist and landlord in no sense couleur de rose. But here individuals are dealt with only in so far as they are the personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular classrelations and class-interests. My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them."-Karl Marx, Capital, vol. I, p. 15, American edition.

« AnteriorContinuar »