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European Socialism | Socialisme européen

  1. Selected Bibliography
  2. A history of socialist thought: volume III, part II - The Second International
  4. 1889 — Socialism and New Unionism

De Tocqueville drove and hammered this truth into the reluctant ears of the Old World two generations ago; and we have all pretended to carry it about as part of our mental furniture ever since. But like most epigrammatic commonplaces, it is not generally realized; and de Tocqueville's book has, in due course, become a classic which everyone quotes and nobody reads. The progress of democracy is, in fact, often imagined, as by Sir Henry Maine, to be merely the substitution of one kind of political machinery for another; and there are many political democrats today who cannot understand why social or economic matters should be mixed up with politics at all.

It was not for this that they broke the power of the aristocracy: they were touched not so much with love of the many as with hatred of the few; and, as has been acutely saidthough usually by foolish personsthey are radicals merely because they are not themselves lords. But it will not long be possible for any man to persist in believing that the political organization of society can be completely altered without corresponding changes in economic and social relations. De Tocqueville expressly pointed out that the progress of democracy meant nothing less than a complete dissolution of the nexus by which society was held together under the old regime.

This dissolution is followed by a period of anarchic spiritual isolation of the individual from his fellows, and to that extent by a general denial of the very idea of society. But man is a social animal; and after more or less interval there necessarily comes into existence a new nexus, differing so entirely from the old-fashioned organization that the historic fossil goes about denying that it is a nexus at all, or that any new nexus is possible or desirable.

To him, mostly through lack of economics, the progress of democracy is nothing more than the destruction of old political privileges; and, naturally enough, few can see any beauty in mere dissolution and destruction.

Selected Bibliography

Those few are the purely political radicals abhorred of Comte and Carlyle: they are in social matters the empiricist survivals from a pre-scientific age. The mere Utopians, on the other hand, who wove the baseless fabric of their visions of reconstructed society on their own private looms, equally failed, as a rule, to comprehend the problem of the age. They were, in imagination, resuscitated Joseph the Seconds, benevolent despots who would have poured the old world, had it only been fluid, into their new molds.

Against their crude plans the statesman, the radical, and the political economist were united; for they took no account of the blind social forces which they could not control, and which went on inexorably working out social salvation in ways unsuspected by the Utopian. In the present socialist movement these two streams are united: advocates of social reconstruction have learnt the lesson of democracy, and know that it is through the slow and gradual turning of the popular mind to new principles that social reorganization bit by bit comes.

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All students of society who are abreast of their time, socialists as well as individualists, realize that important organic changes can only be 1 democratic, and thus acceptable to a majority of the people, and prepared for in the minds of all; 2 gradual, and thus causing no dislocation, however rapid may be the rate of progress; 3 not regarded as immoral by the mass of the people, and thus not subjectively demoralizing to them; and 4 in this country at any rate, constitutional and peaceful.

Socialists may therefore be quite at one with radicals in their political methods. Radicals, on the other hand, are perforce realizing that mere political leveling is quite insufficient to save a state from anarchy and despair.

A history of socialist thought: volume III, part II - The Second International

Both sections have been driven to recognize that the root of the difficulty is economic; and there is every day a wider consensus that the inevitable outcome of democracy is the control by the people themselves, not only of their own political organization but, through that, also of the main instruments of wealth production; the gradual substitution of organized cooperation for the anarchy of the competitive struggle; and the consequent recovery, in the only possible way, of what John Stuart Mill calls "the enormous share which the possessors of the instruments of industry are able to take from the produce.

This new scientific conception of the social organism has put completely out of countenance the cherished principles of the political economist and the philosophic radical. We left them sailing gaily into anarchy on the stream of laissez faire. Since then the tide has turned. The publication of John Stuart Mill's Political Economy in marks conveniently the boundary of the old individualist economics.

Every edition of Mill's book became more and more socialistic. After his death the world learnt the personal history, penned by his own hand, of his development from a mere political democrat to a convinced socialist. The change in tone since then has been such that one competent economist, professedly anti-socialist, publishes regretfully to the world that all the younger men are now socialists, as well as many of the older professors.

It is, indeed, mainly from these that the world has learnt how faulty were the earlier economic generalizations, and, above all, how incomplete as guides for social or political action. These generalizations are accordingly now to be met with only in leading articles, sermons, or the speeches of ministers or bishops. The economist himself knows them no more.

The result of this development of sociology is to compel a revision of the relative importance of liberty and equality as principles to be kept in view in social administration. In Bentham's celebrated "ends" to be aimed at in a civil code, liberty stands predominant over equality, on the ground that full equality can be maintained only by the loss of security for the fruits of labor.

That exposition remains as true as ever; but the question for decision remains, how much liberty? Economic analysis has destroyed the value of the old criterion of respect for the equal liberty of others.


Bentham, whose economics were weak, paid no attention to the perpetual tribute on the fruits of others' labor which full private property in land inevitably creates. In his view liberty and security to property meant that every worker should be free to obtain the full result of his own labor; and there appeared no inconsistency between them.

The political economist now knows that with free competition and private property in land and capital, no individual can possibly obtain the full result of his own labor. She underpinned her argument by quoting August Bebel who, with his book "Woman in the Past, Present and Future", had provided an in-depth analysis of women's position in society. The same year saw the publication of Zetkin's pamphlet, "Die Arbeiterinnen- und Frauenfragen der Gegenwart [Women-Worker and Feminist Issues of our Times] which was based on her speech to the Congress.

In it, Zetkin stressed that woman wage labour should not only be perceived as an economic necessity, but as an indispensable step towards gender equality, because it guaranteed the independence of women from men. Because of it, men and women would no longer have to fight each other, but would have to join forces to achieve fundamental social change. This Congress, as well as subsequent Congresses, adopted resolutions on the woman issue reflecting the inconsistency between measures to protect women at work and the need for woman emancipation. In the words of Louise Kautsky, women workers were to act as "battering rams for the protection of men at work".

However, all in all it was only partially possible to make the woman issue into an accelerant factor in the Socialist Movement. A separate meeting held by the women delegates to the London Congress of did little to change this. The woman issue, or rather, the issue of women workers, remained an issue of secondary importance. However, from the beginning of the 20th century, more and more women in several countries began organizing themselves in special women's sections of the party.

In the trade union movement a number of organizations reserved exclusively for women had already seen the light of day, and they also grew in strength after the turn of the century. The vast majority of women working in manufacturing industry were unskilled, and only to a very limited extent did women become skilled workers, and even they were only admitted to the skilled trade unions with considerable reluctance.

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The best paid women, who were also the best organized, were women teachers, but they kept aloof from the trade union movement and only showed any solidarity with women workers taking industrial action in very exceptional cases, as it was put in in connection with a polemic discussion in the Copenhagen newspaper the Social-Demokraten. The main task was, according to Zetkin, to integrate women into all aspects of the class struggle in order to achieve equal rights for women in this way.

With this, here admittedly highly condensed, objective in mind, Zetkin edited the most important socialist women's periodical, Die Gleichheit [Equality]. Apparently time was now ripe, and 58 delegates from 15 countries took part in this 1st International Women's Conference; here Clara Zetkin spoke on the question of international cooperation. The Conference resolved to set up a secretariat, and this was to be located at the editorial office of the Gleichheit , which was at the same time assigned with the task of being the common publication for all the affiliates. In the following years this periodical published much material on the international socialist women's movement.

This should also be seen as a tribute to Clara Zetkin and her theoretical and political contribution - after all, other periodicals of the Labour Movement would have been capable of undertaking this assignment. Even yet it is not possible to make a full assessment of the importance of this periodical or of the role played by Zetkin on the left wing of the Labour Movement for the development of a woman workers' movement in different countries.

Of course, these issues were up for discussion in the movement of the time, and they have stayed topical ever since. It also remains an open question whether some specific themes were left to women exclusively in order to pacify them, in order to sidetrack them or whether such issues as the protection of children and mothers, peace, woman franchise were in fact objectively of special relevance to women, and, for that reason, were better suited for being used in socialist agitation among women.

1889 — Socialism and New Unionism

The Stuttgart Conference also adopted a demand for universal suffrage for women, a demand which the International Socialist Congress made its own. This was a major step forward, considering, for example, that, without demure, the Austrian Labour Movement, including its women members, had accepted a new election act which only entitled men to vote. This conference has become famous primarily for its resolution to introduce an International Women's Day, first and foremost aimed at strengthening the fight for woman enfranchisement. Events and demonstrations were to be held on the first Sunday in March in all countries.

At this conference there was furthermore a harsh conflict concerning the central issue of a ban against night work for women. Danish and Swedish delegates were in favour of a resolution opposing a ban on night work for adult women and in stead demanded the adoption of a resolution "forbidding night work for both men and women".

Capitalism and Socialism: Crash Course World History #33

A majority was against this resolution; primarily Clara Zetkin and Nina Bang were vehement in their opposition to this proposal. Re Point 4 on the agenda. In connection with the 9th Extraordinary International Socialist Congress in Basel no women's congress as such was held, although women did, of course, participate in it - in addition to Clara Zetkin, Dora Montefiore and Alexandra Kollontay and probably others took the floor - and other women like Rosa Luxemburg who were not directly involved in the women workers' movement were present at the Congress.

However, on the occasion of this Congress, Zetkin did issue a special appeal to women workers. The third Women's Conference was planned to take place in continuation of the 10th International Socialist Congress in Vienna, but like the main event it foundered on the outbreak of the World War. However, some of the material intended for the conference had already been completed.