Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy

By Robert Michels; Cedar Paul et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
The Postulate of Renunciation

THE DISSOLUTION of the democratic consciousness of the leaders may doubtless be retarded, if not completely arrested, by the influence of intellectual or purely ideological factors. "So long as the guidance and representation of the party remains in the hands of persons who have grown gray in the great tradition of socialism,"1 so long, that is to say, as the party is still dominated by vigorous socialistic idealism, it is possible that in certain conditions the leaders will retain their ancient democratic sentiments, and that they will continue to regard themselves as the servitors of the masses from whom their power is derived. We have already discussed the drastic measures that have been proposed to prevent the embourgeoisement of the leaders of proletarian origin. But it is not enough to prevent the proletarian elements among the leaders from adopting a bourgeois mode of life; it is also essential, on this line of thought, to insist upon the proletarianization of the leaders of bourgeois origin. In order to render it impossible for the socialist intellectuals to return to their former environment it has been proposed to insist that they should assimilate the tenor of their lives to that of the proletarian masses, and should thus descend to the level of their followers. It is supposed that their bourgeois instincts would undergo atrophy if their habits were to be in external respects harmonized as closely as possible with those of the proletariat.

This thesis is rooted in the records and experiences of popular history. A life in common awakens sympathy, attenuates the sentiments of class opposition, and may culminate in their entire disappearance. In the equalitarian state of Paraguay, which was founded and administered by the Jesuit order, those who were under tutelage felt themselves to be at one with the Jesuit fathers who were exploiting them, since there was no distinction between the leaders and the led in respect of clothing or general manner of life.2 During the French Revolution, the peasantry took the castles of the nobles by storm; it was only in La Vendée that the two classes made common cause

____________________
1
Heinrich Ströbel, Gewerkschaften u. Sozialistische Geist, "Neue Zeit," anno xxiii, vol. ii, No. 44.
2
J. Guevara Historia de la Conquista de Paraguay, Buenos Ayres, 1885.

-312-

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