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Alexandre Millerand:
Reformist Socialism, 1903

I touch here a subject which does not fail to excite and even to scandalize a certain number of our friends the national interest the solidarity of classes---are these questions about which a socialist has a right to be anxious without betraying the ideal which he claims to serve, the triumph of a humanity freed from class wars and from wars of nations?History is made up of elements too numerous and complex for anyone to be able, without vanity to claim to fix a hard-and-fast date for the triumph of his ideas. We fulfill our whole duty if we work in our station, within the limits of our strength, following the law of our nature, to prepare its victory. I have said how high the socialist ideal is, and how it is not enclosed in the narrow bounds which time and circumstances have fixed for any given nation. All the same, it spreads from men to their neighbor and no bad way of working for its extension is to take pains first to win over one's fellow citizens.How, then, can this propaganda be determined irrespectively of the environment wherein it is carried on? Can method and tactics be the same under different or even opposite regimes? If it is true that the republic is the political formula of socialism, it follows, of course, that in a country where socialism has achieved the immense step forward of realizing its political formula, its action and procedure, once it possesses republican forms and universal suffrage, will assume quite a special aspect and character. This means that it is not only the right but the imperative duty of social democracy in France to adapt its method to the conditions of the political regime in which it moves. It would betray the first of its duties if it took refuge in mere phrases of revolution in order to be saved the responsibilities and burdens implied by the reformist method and the pursuit of immediate results. It would, by the same act, sacrifice the primordial interests of the proletariat by declining thc effort which should, little by little, realize the aggregate of improvements which I tried to resume in an exact summary.But how will the French Socialist Party have the right to call the republican regime its own, how will it handle practically that incomparable instrument of reforms, if it affects keeping outside of the Republican Party's life and means to isolate itself in the barren part of the systematic critic? It will only win that authority over the nation without which our views cannot be realized, on condition that it remains neither alien nor indifferent to any of its emotions and aspirations. In domestic affairs it must take sides in the battle in which the Republic is engaged, and formulate its opinion, inspiring itself---as how should it else?---by its own ideal, but also by the needs, the thoughts, and the traditions of the republican democracy, which it continues and from which it inherits. It will not neglect either the good order and prosperity of the public finances, first condition of all social reform, or the maintenance and development of the national production. Public works, improvements destined to promote industry, commerce, and agriculture, judicious management and utilization of our colonial domain---all these are questions which will claim its scrutiny and retain its attention. It will be the attentive and zealous servant of the nation's greatness and prosperity.Its patriotism---the more sincere because it hates the noisy declamations of Chauvinist politicians--has nothing to fear from its ardent love of peace and of mankind. Until that unknown date when the governments agree to lay aside in concert the heavy burden of military expenses, isolated disarmament would be worse than a folly; it would be a crime against the very ideal whose foremost soldier the socialists see France to be. While applying themselves to uphold and strengthen our diplomacy in the ways of peace, to draw from past conventions every effect of union and concord which they admit, and to get new treaties concluded tightening the bonds of friendship and solidarity between nations, they will watch no less carefully to preserve the country's independence unendangered by any aggression, through the power of its arms and the security of its alliances. While preparing for the future, they will not forget either the duties created for them by the past or the obligations imposed by the present....I have not dissimulated the end toward which it marches, and I am acquainted with the argument that socialism can, and indeed should, call itself "revolutionary," since in fact the disappearance of the wage system will be the most real and radical of revolutions. Words do not frighten me; but I dread equivocations. And what equivocation could be more unfortunate than that of a party masked by a title which contradicts formally its spirit and its method? If we reckon violence reprehensible as well as useless, if legal reform appear to us at once as our immediate objective and as the sole practical procedures to bring us nearer our distant goal, let us, then, have the courage, not a difficult courage, to call ourselves by our own name, "reformists," since reformists we are. Let us take our courage the whole way; and having declared for the reformist method, let us dare to accept its conditions and consequences. Long before yesterday the French Socialist Party gave the first place in its program to the capture of government; long before today it passed from theories to acts, and sent its campaigners into town halls, into departmental assemblies, into Parliament; it did not do so without resigning itself to the daily compromises which are the price of action, and allying itself with the parties near to it. Having gone so far, being persuaded more than ever of the utility and necessity of a method which has proved its value in experience, by what aberration should it desert that method at the very moment when it is becoming most effective? By what inconsistency should it consent to canvass every mandate, and yet rigorously forbid itself to join in the government, and take, along with the highest responsibilities, the most certain power?Such an illogical course, if possible to continue, would soon ruin the credit and influence of the Party weak enough and sufllcicntly uncertain of itself to commit it. To put the people off to the mysterious date when a sudden miracle will change the face of the world, or day by day, reform by reform, by a patient and stubborn effort to win step by step all progress---those are the two methods which we must choose between. Faithful to its principles and to the method which is its own, equally careful not to arouse chimerical hopes, and not to break its promises, French reformist socialism will be able to assume every responsibility; it will not decline any of the burdens imposed on it by its deep feeling of duty toward its ideal and toward its country.

Source:From: Alexandre Millerand, Le Socialisme Réformiste Français, (Paris, 1903), pp. 12-17.Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.

This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.
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© Paul Halsall, November 1998
halsall@fordham.edu