Socialism as It Is: A Survey of the World-Wide Revolutionary Movement

By William English Walling | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
"REFORMISM" IN FRANCE, ITALY, AND BELGIUM

The Socialist parties in Italy, Belgium, and France, where "reformism" is strong, are progressing less rapidly than the Socialists of these countries had reason to expect, and far less rapidly than in other countries. It would seem that in these cases the same cause that drives the movement to abandon aggressive tactics also checks its numerical growth.

For example, it is a matter of principle among Socialists generally to contest every possible elected position and to nominate candidates in every possible district. The revolutionary French Socialist, Jules Guesde, even stated to the writer that if candidates could be run by the party in every district of France, and if the vote could in this way be increased, he would be willing to see the number of Socialists in Parliament reduced materially, even to a handful — the object being to teach Socialism everywhere, and to prepare for future victories by concentrating on a few promising districts rather than to make any effort to become a political factor, at the present moment. Similarly, August Bebel declared that he would prefer that in the elections of 1912 the Socialists should get 4,000,000 votes and 50 Reichstag members rather than 3,000,000 votes and 100 members. In the latter case, of course, the Socialist members would have been elected largely on the second ballot by the votes of non-Socialists.

The policy actually carried out in both Italy and France has of late been exactly the opposite to that recommended by Guesde and Bebel. In the elections of 1909, the Socialist Party of Italy put up 114 less candidates for Parliament than they had in the election of 1904, while the number of candidates nominated in France was 50 less in 1910 than it had been in 1906. The consequence was that the French Party received an increase of votes less absolutely than that gained by the conservative republicans and scarcely greater than that of the radicals, while in Italy the Socialists actually cast a smaller percentage of the total vote in 1909 than they did in 1904, while the party membership materially decreased.

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