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