The charge is often levelled against Socialists that they are “intolerant.” It is said that they are not prepared to find excuses for anybody or anything and that they are bigoted to the exclusion even of justice. If it is meant that Socialists are not tolerant of society the label is justified; but our detractors do not mean that alone.
They go on to say that we let our distaste for society manifest itself in every personal action. That, perhaps, is again true up to a certain point. A Socialist should not allow any occurrence to pass without applying to it his Socialist reasoning. Thus it follows that a Socialist must place a different construction from the ordinary man on the majority of things that occur in the daily life of the world. To take one instance, a man might object to a strike in any particular industry because it affects his personal comfort. He knows nothing of the economic war, of the laws which govern capitalist society and produce strikes and “industrial unrest.” But the Socialist, though his personal comfort may also be affected adversely, is forced by reason of his knowledge of the forces that work in society, to take up a different attitude. Therefore, since at present the great majority of mankind is not Socialist, it follows that the views of a Socialist must be unpopular views. And since there is precious little that happens to-day that a class-conscious worker could condone or approve of, he earns from his fellows the epithet “intolerant.”
When a jingo fanatic on the eve of war assassinated Jaures and was placed on trial he was acquitted, but when a young Anarchist shot at—and failed to kill—Clemenceau, whom he considered the enemy of the working class, he was sentenced to death. Surely this could be called intolerance? Again, all the obstacles that the capitalist class place in the way of the advancement of the proletariat towards their emancipation, all the slime and mud that they cast at advanced thinkers, all the ridicule that they attempt to heap on Socialist thought, indicate that they are intolerant also. It therefore appears that the Socialist and the capitalist are intolerant of one another. This leaves only the worker who is not class-conscious, tolerant. And what does his tolerance do for him?
It makes him accept his slavery, degradation and insecurity of livelihood almost without a murmur. It reconciles him to slums, bad food, and a monotonous life relieved by no real pleasure, and burdened with sorrow. It blinds him to his sordid environment and makes him deaf to his children’s cries. It keeps him docile and makes him willing to produce wealth that his masters shall enjoy, stultifies his imagination of what life should be like, and stifles his desire to improve his condition.
Thus it is only intolerance that will serve the turn of the working class. Not only the intolerance that disgruntles, but the intolerance that makes one long to be up and doing something to make things tolerable.
Until the working class decide upon intolerance, therefore, they will not better their slave condition. When they do achieve intolerance they will not be far from achieving as well their emancipation.
S. H. S.