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Page:Studies in socialism 1906.djvu/217

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167
The Question of Method

workmen, over those forces that tend to raise it.

But it is not very important what interpretation we give to the obscure and uncertain thought of Marx and Engels on this subject. The essential thing is that no Socialist nowadays accepts the theory of the absolute pauperisation of the proletariat. All Socialists, indeed, some openly, others with infinite precautions, some with a mischievous Viennese good-nature, declare it to be untrue that, taken as a whole, the economic material condition of the proletariat is getting worse and worse. It must be conceded, after taking account of the tendency to sink and the tendency to rise, that in the immediate reality of life, the tendency to sink is not the stronger. Once this has been granted it is no longer possible to repeat after Marx and Engels that the capitalist system will perish because it does not ensure to those whom it exploits the minimum necessities of life. It follows from the same admission that it has also become puerile to expect that an economic cataclysm, menacing the proletariat in its very existence, will bring about, by the revolt of the instinct of self-preservation, the "violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie."

Thus, the two hypotheses, one historic and the other economic, from which, according to the ideas of the Communist Manifesto, the sudden proletarian revolution would inevitably result, are proved to be equally untenable. In the political world there will be no bourgeois revolution on