Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER III.: CHARACTER OF POLITICAL AND INTELLECTUAL PROGRESS. - The Tyranny of Socialism
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CHAPTER III.: CHARACTER OF POLITICAL AND INTELLECTUAL PROGRESS. - Yves Guyot, The Tyranny of Socialism 
The Tyranny of Socialism, ed. J.H. Levy (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., 1894).
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CHARACTER OF POLITICAL AND INTELLECTUAL PROGRESS.
Consequences of the Preceding Definition—Despotism in Primitive Civilisations — Absence and Prohibition of Personal Decision—The Absorption of the Individual in the City—Tu omnia!—Liberty of Conscience—Suppression of Political and Social Heresy—Universal Suffrage—Progress in the Political, Religious, and Intellectual Evolution of Humanity is Effected by the Substitution of Personal Decisions for Authoritative Measures.
If the guiding principle with which the last chapter closed, and is more or less successfully adapted to the practice of all Socialists, whether French, English, Swiss, Belgian, or American, follows from the German Socialist programmes, and is indeed that of Socialism—and it would be difficult for them to contest it, without being under the necessity of denying their demands of to-day and their hopes for to-morrow—our demonstration that Socialism represents retrogression, and not progress, is complete; since it will suffice to recall some of the typical phenomena of the evolution of humanity for this backward movement to appear clear and distinct before the eyes of all those who, instead of intoxicating themselves with phrases and visions, and giving themselves up to epileptiform impulses or millennial dreams, believe that the method of observation ought to guide us in sociology as much as in any other science. If this presentment is displeasing to certain Socialists who profess to represent Scientific Socialism, and to employ the historic method, it will be a proof that if they invoke that method, they decline to make use of it.
If we apply it so as to arrive at the criterion which distinguishes social retrogression from evolution, we, from the very outset, prove that, in the present day, none would venture to place the golden age behind us. And we are not now dealing with the question from the material point of view, but with its social bearings; although in the discussion upon which we are really engaged, the material point of view is not without its own importance. In the political programmes issued by the congresses which we have cited, appeal is made, as we have seen, to the following rights:—The right of voting, direct suffrage, liberty of speech, liberty of the press, and that religion shall be regarded as a matter of private concern. These are so many protests against, and condemnations of, stages of civilisation through which humanity has passed down to the present time. Not only do the primitive civilisations—such as those of the Australian, Polynesian, and African tribes—still present to us the type of our pre-historic ancestors, and give us the opportunity, as it were, of contemplating them as contemporaries, but in the Hindu, Greek, and Latin civilisations too, we see the tribal system, the all-powerful rule of the head of the family, in which is included women, children, and relatives of every degree, and the slaves. The individuality of the chief is the only one that counts in the tribe, because he alone has the right to command; and even his will is subordinated to the worship of the dead, to ancestral customs, to the commands of the gods. In reality, under this type of civilisation, no one can think for himself, act upon his own initiative, or attempt to direct his life as he thinks fit.
When a union of tribes has constituted a city, whether that city be governed by an oligarchy, a democratic council, or a tyrant, as liberal Athens or patrician Rome, the individual has no independent existence. Aristotle, like Plato, set up a merely passive social molecule. Scepticism regarding the gods was punished by the hemlock, as in the case of Socrates. The city was everything; and when, on being converted into an Empire, Rome became incarnate in a man, the senate cried, in cheering Probus: Tu omnia! “Thou art everything!” As heirs to this idea, our legists bestowed the same power upon Philippe le Bel. Bossuet, in the name of Holy Writ, bestowed it upon Louis XIV., and even good-natured Louis XVI., upon the eve of 1789, imagining himself to be the absolute master of his subjects, of their goods and their destinies, said to Malesherbes:—It is legal because I will it!”
In all these civilisations, then, the subjection of thought to authority, the prohibition of unorthodox views, is manifest. And since when have we been enfranchised? Not fifteen years ago, in spite of innumerable editions of Voltaire, it was still a serious misdemeanour to satirise a religion recognised by the State. In the absence of faith, respect was obligatory. In Germany1 there is still a State religion. The Gotha and Erfurt programmes demand that religion shall be only a private affair. Why is Luther’s agitation considered progressive, if not because he enfranchised the conscience of the individual—because he allowed the individual himself to decide, in a more extended domain than heretofore, what he could, or could not, believe? Who would now dare ask for the revival of the Inquisition, that terrible instrument of oppression which converted each man into a suspected person, and required of him an account of all his most secret motives? Who does not regard it as a most insufferable tyranny for an individual to be required, under the most fearful penalties, to believe all that a clergyman orders him to believe, calling to his aid the secular arm to enforce his authority?
What is that liberty of conscience which, after having cost us so many glorious victims, has now become an indisputable principle, whatever criticisms its application may provoke, if not the acknowledgment that each individual has the right of private judgment?
Where then are the Socialists who reject this right in the matter of religion or philosophy?2 Do they reject it when they demand liberty of the press and liberty of speech? On the contrary, they claim for each, not only the right to decide for himself what he ought or ought not to believe, but also the right to propagate, as publicly as he pleases, his beliefs and disbeliefs.
They hold, and we agree with them, that there is no such thing as orthodoxy or heresy in political or social questions. What is the right of political voting, the extension of which is demanded by the programmes we have cited? It is the right of each citizen to determine his country’s destiny, so far as his vote can do it. This right was, in former times, exclusively reserved to the tribal chief, under the authority of customs and gods, or to an oligarchy, to a Greek despot or Roman Emperor, to the Basileus of Byzantium, or to a monarch by right divine.
And as French Socialists (at least while they do not wield the force majeure),1 proclaim, like their German brethren, the rights which we have enumerated, they are forced to admit that, in the political, religious and intellectual evolution of the human race, that progress consists in the substitution of personal decision for authoritative measures.
And in England.—Ed.
Some of them, and those the most thorough and consistent Socialists, do reject it. See Mr. Belfort Bax’s Religion of Socialism, p. 113–5.—Ed.
As I have shown, the more consistent and free-spoken of them already announce that they will enforce their antitheological views in education.—Ed.