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Page:Studies in socialism 1906.djvu/68

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Studies in Socialism

oppressed by the power of capital, the banks, and industrial monopolies to be united in one fighting whole? Proudhou quickly discovered that the army of social democracy was composed of very various elements, that it was a mixture of factory-workers, still weak in numbers and power, of a lower middle-class composed of petty manufacturers and small tradespeople, and of an artisan class which the absorbing power of capital was eying greedily but had not yet done away with.

From this analysis comes all that is hazy and contradictory in the positive constructive part of Proudhou's work, that singular mixture of reaction and revolution which makes him endeavour on the one hand to save the credit of the lower middle-class by means of artificial combinations, and on the other urge the creation of a solid working class, the revolutionary power. He seems to have wished to suspend the action of events and to put off the revolutionary crisis of 1848, in order to give economic evolution time to draw its line of action more clearly, and better to direct the minds of men. But here again, in these hesitations, these scruples, even in the contradictory nature of these efforts, we can trace the influence of the intimate contact of sincere Socialist thought with the complex and still uncertain reality. It is the very life of modern times that again and again finds its echo here.

And now at last, after 1848, the prime effective force back of the whole movement has become