Ten Years of Socialism in Europe

Courtesy Reuters

"SOCIALISM is that policy or theory which aims at securing by the action of the central democratic authority a better distribution, and in due subordination thereunto a better production, of wealth than now prevails."

This definition of socialism, taken from the Encyclopedia Britannica, is open to the double criticism of being at once too narrow and too vague. It excludes from socialist ranks anarchists like Elysée Reclus or Kropotkin, who, though they always claimed to be socialists, were actually centralists. On the other hand, it also leaves out the Bolsheviks, whose dictatorship of the minority is the negation, pure and simple, of democracy. Moreover, the definition seems rather vague when we compare it with the statements of principles made by all the social-democratic parties, who, according to a formula derived from Karl Marx, pursue the conquest of political power by the workers and the socialization of the means of production and exchange.

The Encyclopedia Britannica's definition, however, does possess the advantage of applying accurately to all the parties and labor organizations which before the World War were organized in what has since come to be called the Second International. At that time, indeed, the Russian Bolsheviks still called themselves social-democrats and formed part of that particular International, where they rubbed shoulders with English trade unionists, men of very moderate views, who were not socialists at all in the Marxian sense of the word, but who admitted the necessity of political action by the workers as a class and whose social tendencies corresponded fairly accurately to the definition given above.

As I write these lines I have before my eyes the commemorative album prepared by the Austrian socialists for the Tenth Congress of the International, which, as every one knows, was to have been held at Vienna during the month of August, 1914. Several copies were already off the presses of the Arbeiter Zeitung when the war broke out, and ten years later these were presented to the members of the Bureau

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