Saturday, 30 August 2014

THE SOCIALISTS AND THEIR LAST ACCUSER.

(From the Examiner, April 17.)

The denunciation of the Socialists, and especially of the French Socialists, by M.Mazzini, as men who have done irreparable injury to the cause of freedom, and are now standing as a bar to every effort that might be made to resuscitate it, is a bold act, and may prove a salutary one. M. Mazzini accuses them of having " animalized man." He charges them with having degraded him from a sanguine, disinterested, and aspiring spirit, to a materialized, selfish, and grovelling creature. There are few men of liberality or sense, witnesses of the events of 1848, to whom the accusation will appear unjust or exaggerated. The determination to effect so great a civil revolution as the Socialists had in view, the attempt to overthrow and re-organize the existing isolations of property and labour, and less from any settled confidence in the result, than simply to captivate and win the favour of the mob—this it was that disgusted all the propertied class, from the humblest shopkeeper to the largest capitalist and landed proprietor, and compelled all to a common alliance for common defence against a sect, which, covering itself under the name of republican, in truth put forward merely a huge and nefarious system of public and private rapine.
If, however, we agree with M. Mazzini in his denunciations of Socialism, we would by no means join in the advice he gives, the views he takes, or the remedies he proposes. The Socialists, says M. Mazzini, and the French liberals in general, have talked too much ; and it is by this eternal prating, splitting, theorizing, and consequent quarrelling, that the liberal party has been paralysed and broken up. Let all habit of talk be henceforth abandoned, exclaims the Italian leader ; and let the French give themselves exclusively to the sole business of liberals at the present moment, Action.
Now for our parts, looking at the conduct of the Socialists, we should say that they had done, or attempted to do, a great deal too much, and that they had reflected discussed, and examined far too little. Socialism in fact exists but in a state of theory and speculation. Our belief is that it can never exist in any other state. But even supposing this belief to be unjust and hasty, Socialism as yet has never sufficiently emerged from its infancy to be entitled to throw off its swathing clothes, and be entrusted to walk alone. So far from its doctrines being now matured for practice, or for being put into action, they stand still in need of ventilation and discussion for years and years to come. What precisely they most want is to be sifted, attacked, defended, and subjected to the ordeal of proof or ridicule, the tests of truth. We have no objection whatever, to Socialism, in a state of philosophy, or of argument. We can read Mr. Proudhon with astonishment mingled with admiration, we can read Mr. Kingsley with admiration mingled with astonishment. But Heaven forefend our being legislated for by either the one or the other, by Socialist-Heathens, or Socialist-Christians.
We maintain, therefore, in direct contradiction to M. Mazzini, that what the Socialists have to do, and what alone they should be permitted to do, is to talk and not to act. M. Bonaparte has followed M. Mazzini's advice to the letter respecting them. He will not let the Socialists talk. They must not preach, nor print, nor meet together for the sake of a little quiet discussion within the realms of his police. Therefore if the Socialists do anything in France, they must act. They must conspire, or be nothing. They must handle the musket and heap the barricade, instead of pointing rejoinders or piling arguments. 
We do not agree with M. Mazzini, either, in thinking the present a time for such action as he recommends. It is manifest to any observer that the world is quite full enough just now of the elements of disorder, and that misgovernment and tyranny are hourly adding to their extent, revolutions. The aim and exertion of men of liberal opinion, therefore, whether in exile or at home, should be not so much to excite and bring about these revolutions, as to take due advantage and make the proper use of them when they come. Three years ago, M. Mazzini and those who think with him had in every country in Europe a revolution offered to them. They may say it found them unprepared. But after all, what use did they make of the great opportunity? and how are they better prepared to make use of the next ? We know of nothing that would, be so embarrassing or so useless to the great cause of just government and free opinion, as a renewal at present in any country of the events of 1848. No one on the continent of Europe is prepared for what M. Mazzini calls action. In insisting upon immediate action, M. Mazzini, as well as M. Kossuth, go as much against the inclinations of the liberals as against those of the despots ;—indeed more so, for the latter would like nothing better just now than wanton conspiracies or rash attempts at war and insurrection. It would enable them to rivet their fetters, and offer the excuse they most desire for their Governments of mere brute force.
If political exiles in England and elsewhere, desire to advance the great and good cause of Constitutional Freedom, it is not by permanent conspiracies, or by the exciting of periodical and petty insurrections, that they will do it ; but rather by educating themselves for change, and coming to some serious and sensible understanding among each other, with respect to the great questions which never fail to arise on the morrow of a successful insurrection. No insurrection, the mere result of conspiracy, has ever been productive of great or useful results. Revolutions are like the convulsions of nature, which man must await, and cannot hasten. The Socialists are, we fear, very foolish people ; but we would by all means let them talk. The scum that will come off during a period of wordy fermentation, may render their doctrines clearer, their principles and aims more intelligible But from action, we should say, let Socialist and Republican alike refrain; until they really agree as to what they seek, and how they are to accomplish and to secure it.

 Empire 9 August 1852,

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