A Forecast of the Coming Revolution: Interview with Paul Lafargue
Amongst the best known leaders of Socialist thought is our comrade Paul Lafargue, author of The Evolution of Property, Socialism and the Intellectuals, and many other volumes and pamphlets of great value to International Socialism. A visit to Paris brought us in touch with a French comrade, through whose kindly offices we received an invitation to visit the veteran debater at his pleasant retreat in a little village some dozen miles from the French capital. Lafargue and his wife (once known personally to English Socialists as Laura Marx) received us with the true comradeship, which in palpable form made it plain that “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”, is no empty phrase amongst Socialists.
Mindful of the interests of the Party, we secured from our comrade the following interesting expression of his views upon some vital topics of moment:
“The two countries which will benefit from the Russo-Japanese War”, said Lafargue, in answer to a query, “are America and England. Though the Japs succeed in expelling Russia from Manchuria, they are at the same time weakening themselves for a long period, and thus limiting their capacity for industrial competition. Again, the financiers of England and America—principally the former—will draw from Japan a great deal even of such profit as may accrue to her in return for their present assistance. Japan has for years been developing extraordinarily, but the War hinders this. The resources she is squandering in war are lost to industry.”
“And the results of all this upon our policy in the Far East, comrade?”
“The most important thing is the appearance of Japan upon the scene as the strong power of the East, so strong that no European country can compete with it. The rise of Japan marks the conclusion of European piracy in the Far East. Nobody expected such an extraordinary power. Further, Japan will organise China, industrially and politically.”
“What is your view, comrade, of the industrial position in Japan?”
“The rise of Japan industrially has been so rapid that the horrors of child and female labour in the England of the early nineteenth century have been reproduced—with the great difference that the intermediate stages from the England of the fifteenth century were totally absent in Japan. The psychological difference is enormous, and must produce a revolt, but the form we cannot forecast. In England and France the revolt was against the machine, and whilst this may not prove so in Japan, this we know—the Japs start with a Socialist movement such as was not, and could not be, in England and France in the initial stages of Capitalism. Just as the Japs adopt and adapt the ready-made science of Europe, so the Social science of the New Age finds there a ready soil. We may expect the Japanese people, who have shown such extraordinary courage on the battlefield, to show in the Social struggle the same indomitable energy and enterprise.”
“Now, as to the War again, comrade, what are its results upon Europe?”
“This war has shown that Russia has made a fool of Europe with a show of power. Particularly has Czarism befooled France. That show has enabled her to draw from France about eleven milliards of francs (some £400,000,000) by State loans and financial companies for the industrial exploitation of Russia. The latter investments have been chiefly for coal-mining and metal works. These found prosperity as long as the Russian State was a huge customer for railway construction, &c, but in so far as they have a revival, it is only the artificial stimulus of war time, which will have its due reaction. Even now the lack of money is strangling this revival. Either victory or defeat for Russia now means revolution—a bourgeois or constitutional revolution. The first thing that the new power will have to do will be to proclaim the bankruptcy of Russia—as the best means to obtain credit. You will recollect a similar process in the French Revolution. The new rulers of Russia will be the more ready to declare this bankruptcy, in that the losers will be, not the Russians but the French. The international effects will be felt primarily in France, where the chief debt of Russia is held. The fall of the present Russian political system will shake the whole fabric of European society.”
“What is the likely effect upon Socialism in France of the loss of all this capital through the fraud and folly of the bourgeois politicians and the financial magnates who dominate them?”
“Ah, that is the question. Remember the fuss about Panama involving only 1 1/2 milliards of francs. You will see why I anticipate great results from the loss of some eight times as much. Only the Socialist Party of France has opposed itself to the Franco-Russian Alliances and denounced it as a fraud upon the French people. The discrediting of all the bourgeois parties must mean the immense growth of the party of the Proletariat. Only the Socialist Party of France, the Revolutionists of France, had the courage and insight to oppose the alliance with despotism.”
“Very good, comrade; so much for the economic factors. What of other forces?”
“Russia is a compound of different nationalities. In the centre the Slavs, surrounded by Poles, Finns, Caucasians, Armenians, &c, held down by main force. These will spring into position again on the occasion of the Revolution, and Poland principally (the Ireland of Russia), which has never lost the sense of nationality, despite the tyranny of centuries, will make her influence felt. She will want to reconstitute her nationality with the Austrian and the German Poles. Thus 1 believe that the next few years will bring us the European revolution, which, if Socialists are sufficiently bold and well organised, will mean also the Social Revolution.”
This concluded, as far as the War is concerned, one of the most instructive conversations in which 1 ever had the pleasure of participating. In a future issue I hope to reproduce some expressions of our comrade upon trade unionism, but with which it would be a pity to complicate this article. The difference between the Socialists and the pseudo-Socialists can easily be seen by a comparison of the large-mindedness and grip of the situation disclosed by our comrade, with the puny reflection of Capitalist sentimentality exhibited by Jaures in dealing with this same position. The attitude of the Reformists in France sufficiently indicates the absurdity of the claim of such superficial politicians to in any sense represent Socialism either in France or elsewhere. Jaurès and his school are straining every nerve in a “Stop the War” agitation, on the surface in the interests of peace, but in reality designed to, if possible, stave off the evil day of capitalist collapse. It was not for nothing that our comrades of the Socialist Party of France moved the resolution at the recent International Congress, which declared against compromise and intrigue with capitalist parties. The Socialists of France have fought and are fighting the same battle against treachery and folly of opportunism, which we of The Socialist Party of Great Britain are waging in this country.
I am sure every Socialist in England joins with us in reciprocating the fraternal greetings extended by Paul and Laura Lafargue to the unofficial representatives of British Socialism to whom this interview was accorded.
H. J. HAWKINS
(Socialist Standard, November 1904)
Our comrade Hawkins forwards a copy of the following letter which he has received:
Dear Comrade,—I have just received No. 3 of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD, containing your interview, and I am glad to find that you have given a very full and faithful account thereof.
Trusting that the paper will be successful and with my best wishes and our kind regards to Mrs Hawkins and yourself.
(Socialist Standard, December 1904)