A Theory of Public Opinion

By Francis Graham Wilson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
The Proletarian Definition

I

The revolutionary flavor was stronger in the socialism of 1850 than of 1950. Having recognized that democracy was not irretrievably an instrument for the rule of the bourgeoisie, a large segment of the socialist movement was willing to commit itself to the preservation of the Classical ideas about public opinion, to accept parliamentarism, civil rights, party conflict, and the continued existence of free public opinion, in which, indeed, all individuals were to participate, whatever might be their class feelings.* But it had to be a public opinion to which all the means of communication were open, and to which the socialist could address his appeal. Like the Christian, the democratic socialist became confident that he was bound to win the masses to his side by persuasion, rather than by the coercive organization of a revolutionary government. And, though the socialist might, like the conservative, recognize that there is always some sort of class

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*
See in general G. D. H. Cole, A History of Socialist Thought ( 5 vols., 1953- 1960), for a comprehensive treatment of the increasing socialist allegiance to democratic political action. The great new factor in the nineteenth century was the advance of representative government. Vol. I, p. 315: "As voting rights were extended, the possibility of the 'Welfare State,' resting on democratic pressure without violence, came gradually into view." Cole traces the rise of socialist parliamentarism throughout Western Europe.

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