E. Belfort Bax

Some Reflections on the International Movement

(30 April 1910)

Some Reflections on the International Movement, Justice, 30th April 1910, p.3.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Since the “New International” was established in a formal manner by the institution of the Brussels Bureau at the Paris Congress of 1900, the progress of the Socialist movement everywhere has been so great that it may fairly be doubted whether the existing machinery for carrying on the international work of the party is adequate to present needs. More frequent meetings of the Brussels Bureau would seem to be imperatively desirable; meetings representing a more intimate touch with Socialist opinion throughout the civilised world. For the stupendous increase in the expansion of Socialism everywhere has been accompanied in some quarters with the usual phenomenon met with throughout history in similar cases of expansion – namely, a weakening hold on the central principles of the movement, theoretically considered, together with a tendency in practice to compromise with the essentials of the capitalist system as it obtains to-day. These tendencies, as represented in a distinct movement within the party, are known in Germany as Revisionism. But in other countries they maybe found none the less, though under other names, and in a slightly different form.

Our just congratulations at the enormous expansion of Socialism numerically the world over during the last decade must not betray us into forgetting that mere numbers ranged under a party flag, important as they are, do not mean everything in the life of a world-historic movement such as ours. Yet the contrary view is a natural one for the practical politician and Parliamentary tactician of the party (for whom votes mean the one thing needful) to take. The temptation to overlook all things save the party machinery for such is indeed in many cases irresistible. The reaction against this has given us in the Latin countries the movement known as “Syndicalism.” This inclination of the “practical politicians” of the party, the successful men in Parliament in all countries, to pander to the prejudices of masses of voters ignorant of the first principles of Socialism economically – and still more of that general outlook on human affairs based on the central economic demand which we may term the “spirit of the movement” – is a danger no convinced Socialist can ignore. To-day we see only too often, let expediency but seem to demand it, every principle, every accepted Socialistic doctrine, whittled down or explained away. What I say will be admitted, I think, by all independent observers who have followed the recent history of the movement.

Amid the general bankruptcy of the ideals of the elder world, people in general, and not least the thoughtful section of the proletariat, are waiting for a “lead” as regards the Socialist ideal of the future. Even the soundest and best exposition or formulation of the central economic truth of Socialism by itself fails to meet this demand altogether. It displays, of course, the skeleton of the future organism – but the skeleton only. Large numbers of those whose sympathies are with the economic demand of Socialism, but who are outside the actual party, are asking what attitude Socialism takes up as regards other questions of personal and social life, apart from its strictly economic aspects. Surely it would not be amiss if the party as a whole were to concern itself to a somewhat greater extent than heretofore with this theoretical side of the movement. We want, it is true, no hard-and-fast lines drawn, but we do want suggestive answers, not evasions, to many questions continually being asked – answers which show the logical trend of thought that flows from recognised Socialist principles.

For it cannot be too often insisted upon that, so far as human aims are concerned, and hence so far as the practical movement is concerned, the economic demands of Socialism are based on certain ethical principles – Liberty, Equality, Fraternity – and that these ethical principles are assumed in every claim the party makes on its members or mankind in general. On the strength of this fact alone, undeniable though it be, that Socialism rests on an inevitable economic evolution, you can make no direct appeal to, or demands on, human conduct and human enthusiasm. The economic revolution has not merely to be foreseen, but to be striven for by the Socialist of to-day, and this striving-for implies a aspiration, an aspiration not toward a personal goal – for such would assuredly, with most, be much better served by keeping aloof from the Socialist Party and its political agitation and making friends with the powers that be and the mammon of Capitalism – but an aspiration toward an impersonal goal, a social ideal, in the content of which the ethical ideas above referred to shall attain their realisation. The aim is one for the working class throughout the world of modern civilisation and for those of other classes who are prepared to join forces in a movement which must ultimately mean the abolition of class-society itself. But meanwhile let us clarify our ideas and clearly understand our aims.


E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 10.8.2004